An Afghan family of five that had received approval to move to the United States based on the father’s work for the U.S. government was detained after flying into Los Angeles, a legal advocacy group said in court documents filed Saturday.
By Nicholas Kulish / The New York Times via The Seattle Times
March 5, 2017
“I’ve never, ever heard of this happening. They go through so many layers of security clearance, including one right before they get on the plane.”
— Becca Heller, Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project
An Afghan family of five that had received approval to move to the United States based on the father’s work for the U.S. government has been detained for more than two days after flying into Los Angeles International Airport, a legal advocacy group said in court documents filed Saturday.
A federal judge in Los Angeles on Saturday evening issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the mother and children from being transferred out of the state. The order, by Judge Josephine L. Staton of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, arrived as they were about to be put on a plane to Texas, most likely bound for a family detention center there, lawyers said.
The scene at the airport was “chaotic, panicked, it was a mess,” said Lali Madduri, a lawyer with the firm Gibson Dunn, which is representing the family pro bono. “The whole time the children are crying, the woman is crying. They can’t understand what’s going on.”
The father had arrived Thursday with his wife and three children, ages 7, 6 and 8 months, on Special Immigrant Visas, according to the lawyers’ habeas corpus petition filed in court Saturday. Those visas were created by Congress for citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan who have helped the U.S. military or government by working, for example, as drivers or interpreters. Such work often makes Iraqis and Afghans targets in their home countries.
But instead of being allowed to enter the United States, the family has been detained, according to the court papers.
“I’ve never, ever heard of this happening,” said Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, or IRAP, which filed the petition. “They go through so many layers of security clearance, including one right before they get on the plane.”
Calling the detention “egregious, inhumane, and unconstitutional,” the group petitioned the court to release the family, whose names were not publicly revealed. The judge did not order the family be released but set a hearing for Monday.