Government officials said the family members were given back their passports and visas and will be interviewed April 5 in Seattle to determine if they are eligible to use those visas to remain in the United States.
By Amy Taxin / The Associated Press via The Seattle Times
March 6, 2017
“It is a victory in a battle that shouldn’t have been fought. The government swung and missed on this issue, and they just got it wrong.”
— Attorney Robert Blume
An Afghan family of five who traveled to the United States on special visas and were detained by immigration officials at the Los Angeles airport were released from custody Monday, according to the U.S. government and the family’s attorneys.
The mother, father and their three young sons, including a baby, arrived at the airport Thursday for a connecting flight to Washington state, where they planned to resettle.
Instead, U.S. immigration officials detained them and split them up. They planned to send the mother and children to a detention center in Texas, but lawyers intervened over the weekend and got a federal judge to quash the transfer.
Homeland Security officials haven’t said why the family was held, while immigrant advocates asserted in a court petition that there was “absolutely no justification whatsoever.”
Government officials said in a federal-court hearing Monday that the family members were given back their passports and visas and will be interviewed April 5 in Seattle to determine if they are eligible to use those visas to remain in the United States.
A refugee agency had chosen the Tri-Cities area, where the family has a friend, for the family to resettle, said Caitlin Bellis, an attorney representing the family for the public-interest law firm Public Counsel.
Lawyers said the family never should have been subjected to this treatment after going through the more than yearlong process to obtain special immigrant visas, which are given to foreigners who work for the U.S. military in their countries, often risking their lives.
The father of the family worked different jobs for the U.S. military in Afghanistan for more than a decade and was assaulted and shot during his time there, said attorney Rob Blume.
“It is a victory in a battle that shouldn’t have been fought,” Blume told reporters after the hearing. “The government swung and missed on this issue, and they just got it wrong.”