Save Aysha and Her Family from Being Executed by the Taliban
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Aysha and her family are in critical danger because Aysha's father, Muhammad, is a heroic Afghan interpreter who worked for the US mission in Afghanistan for more than 10 years and was threatened with death by the Taliban. As NBC News has reported, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of Department of Homeland Security, has been stonewalling several bipartisan members of Congress for over two years on why Muhammad and his family were denied visas. The family remains in critical danger as they wait. Tell USCIS that ignoring Congress is unacceptable. USCIS must approve Muhammad, Aysha, and the rest of the family's case to save them from the Taliban before it is too late. USCIS doesn't question that leaving this family behind is a death sentence. They just don't care enough about refugees to even save a toddler from the Taliban.
As a US military interpreter, Muhammad directly saved American soldiers' lives, including one time he dashed into an ambushed vehicle under Taliban fire. His military supervisors praised his work ethic, dedication, and trustworthiness, and his incredible skill of fluently speaking six languages made him indispensable on Special Forces night raids on Taliban insurgents. But the Taliban considers him a criminal, accused him of converting to Christianity, and is working hard to find and kill Muhammad, his wife, and his young children. The whole family has been living in hiding for more than five years. They are living in daily fear of being discovered and killed by the Taliban. Even the children are unable to leave their apartment. Leaks in the roof have made the young girls sick on several occasions from getting infections from bacteria in the water or getting cold in the winter.
Meet Aysha, Muhammad, and the rest of their family in our 2-min YouTube video and help us by sharing the video (especially with your representatives in Congress). As I wrote about in USA Today, my family and I tried to sponsor Aysha and her family for emergency humanitarian parole visas to save their lives, but the USCIS denied the cases despite the strong support of a former Navy Lieutenant who personally worked with Muhammad in Afghanistan. USCIS later admitted that they didn't read the humanitarian cases before denying them. Aysha's aunt and uncle in the United States even offered to care for her and her sisters, but USCIS refused to even save the kids, making the ridiculous claim that Aysha and her sisters are “security concerns.”
The Ongoing Fight to Save Aysha and Her Family
After USCIS denied the humanitarian visas in 2017, we traveled to Washington, D.C. in April and June 2018 and met with dozens of Congressional offices. In July 2018, 38 bipartisan members of Congress sent a letter to former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asking to review the reason that the family's refugee case was denied. USCIS took several months to respond to the letter, and they are still refusing to answer Congress’s questions about why the case was denied. Rep. Raskin questioned then Secretary Nielsen at a Judiciary Committee hearing in December 2018, and she promised to immediately provide a briefing to members of Congress about the case. But instead DHS ignored all of Rep. Raskin's follow up requests. USCIS has also ignored Senate offices that have contacted them about the case. Four bipartisan members of Congress then sent a letter on February 14th, 2019 demanding to know why the family's case was denied. Again on May 22nd, Representatives Jamie Raskin, Tom Reed, Pramila Jayapal, and John Garamendi sent a letter to USCIS reiterating their request for a briefing on the family’s case. Despite all of Congress’s ongoing efforts, USCIS is still ignoring Congress’s request to review the reason for the denial. This is unacceptable for USCIS to ignore Congress’s requests for information on the case.
We continue to ask Congress to demand answers on why the Kamran family’s case was denied. Just a few weeks ago, USCIS agreed to meet with several Congressional offices to discuss this case and the related policy issue of a 99% drop in admissions of US military interpreters as refugees. However, USCIS has already said that the reason they denied the case is classified, and they are still refusing to give a classified briefing with members of Congress. So they are still stonewalling Congress's main request, but we are encouraged that the pressure from Congress is yielding some results.
We have recently found some refugee advocates in Canada who have stepped up to help get the family to Canada. Consequently, we are working on an application for a private sponsorship to Canada (under current Canadian policy, a private sponsorship to Canada rather than a more typical UN referral is the only option for refugees presently in Pakistan). You can contribute to the funds required for the sponsorship here on our Go Fund Me page.
What You Can Do
1. Sign this petition to tell USCIS to approve Asha's and her family's cases quickly. Aysha's father Muhammad is a hero who faithfully served the US mission in Afghanistan for over 10 years and is now in grave danger because the Taliban is determined to get revenge. He has already lost everything except his and his family's lives because of his service to America, but he is still proud of his choice to work for the US military. All he wants in return is the chance to bring his daughters to safety and to give them a future. If USCIS does not re-open and approve his case, he will be left behind to be killed by the same terrorists that he risked his life to fight for so many years.
2. Call your Congressional representatives and your Senators and ask them to support our effort asking USCIS for information on why they denied Muhammad's case. If you need contact information on your Congressional representatives, use this link to look them up: https://whoismyrepresentative.com/
3. Donate to or share our Go Fund Me pages to (1) raise money for a Canadian refugee case for the family or (2) provide money for the family to survive while they wait for visas. Canada requires that one year's worth of living expenses be saved ahead of time before they will evaluate the case. Since the family is living in hiding, Muhammad is unable to work and would not be able to survive without financial support for current living expenses. For legal reasons, we have separate Go Fund Me pages for the Canadian refugee case and for current living expenses for the family.
More Details on Aysha and her Family's Story
Aysha's family's story is summarized below and has been reported on by NBC News, The Christian Post, USA Today, McClatchy DC, The Sacramento Bee, RedState, The Ithaca Voice (here, here, and here), No One Left Behind, and the Evangelical Immigration Table. You can also hear Muhammad's story in his own words in our 4-min YouTube video or in a recent interview on The Michael Calderin Show.
When the US military mostly pulled out of Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban gained strength in Afghanistan and killed many interpreters or their family members in revenge. One of Muhammad's brothers and a nephew, Sahil, who was also an interpreter, were shot and left for dead in an assassination attempt on Muhammad and his family. After the Taliban ambush, Muhammad fled his home district, just in time to escape a second Taliban attack that destroyed their family home. Consequently, Muhammad lost all contact with US military personnel who could have helped him apply for an SIV visa.
When I learned about Muhammad and his family's plight over three years ago, I was determined to do everything possible to save their lives. Muhammad had tried to apply to the US as a refugee on his own, but he was denied for “discretionary security reasons,” a very common problem for former military interpreters and their families. When Muhammad's refugee case was denied, he was devastated and lost all hope for saving his life and his family's lives. He said the only option left for him was to surrender to the Taliban, thinking that after the Taliban tortured and killed him, they would stop looking for his children. I told him not to give up and promised him to find a way to save their lives.
Please help me keep my promise to Muhammad to save his life and his family's lives. They do not deserve to suffer and die because of Muhammad's service to the US military. My family hired a lawyer and filed a humanitarian parole case to sponsor Muhammad and his family to come live in the US while he works to get permanent, legal status in the US. Our humanitarian parole case for them may be our last chance to save their lives.
In what our lawyer says is the most egregious case she has ever seen, USCIS denied Muhammad and his family's humanitarian parole cases because his refugee case had been denied and without even bothering to figure out why the refugee case had been denied. Thus, they denied Muhammad's humanitarian parole case for “discretionary reasons” without even knowing what those discretionary reasons were. This is effectively a death sentence for the entire family.
When our lawyer pleaded with USCIS to at least let Muhammad's young daughters come live with their aunt and uncle in the US, the director of the Humanitarian Affairs Branch of USCIS, John Bird, refused to approve any of the family's cases and made the absurd claim that granting a one-year visa to anyone in the family, including Muhammad's 2- and 4-year-old daughters, was a security concern. Because of USCIS's policy and Muhammad's service to the US military, Muhammad's children were literally born with a death sentence. Mr. Bird acknowledges that Muhammad and his family meet all the criteria for humanitarian parole, and he does not question that they will be killed if left in their current situation. He just does not care enough about Muslim refugees to even save a toddler from the Taliban.
Worse yet, in October 2017 USCIS granted humanitarian parole to family members of Las Zetas drug cartel members who murdered US ICE agents in Mexico, so that the family members of the murderers could attend a trial in Washington, D.C. Thus, USCIS is literally treating Muhammad and his family worse than criminals.
Please contact your representatives in Congress and Senators and ask them to help with this case. You can email me (save.aysha (at) gmail.com) for more information. If you want to contribute to supporting the Kamran family while we work to get them visas, please visit our Go Fund Me page.
Email me (Kristy Perano) at save.aysha (at) gmail.com to find out how you can help or for more information on Muhammad's case. Please also email me if you know Muhammad personally or if you know any government officials or reporters who may be able to help raise public awareness of Muhammad's case.
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