An Afghani family that spent two days in detention at Los Angeles International Airport last month in the wake of President Donald Trump’s short-lived travel ban was granted permanent residency in the United States, immigration attorneys said.
After interviewing the family for more than three hours last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington state decided that the parents and their three young children were eligible to remain in the U.S. under the special immigrant visas that they had originally used to enter, said Talia Inlender, senior staff attorney with Los Angeles-based law firm Public Counsel.
The family had been out of detention on parole since March 6, but their immigration status had been uncertain pending a final Deferred Inspection interview with CBP.
“We’re thrilled that the family has been admitted into the United States” Inlender said Tuesday. “But this decision only confirms that the detention of this family, and the actions of Customs and Border Protection, were completely unjustified.
“It is unconscionable that upon their arrival to the U.S. this family was subjected to multiple days of detention, separated from each other, and it took a team of lawyers going to federal court to get them released,” she said.
A CBP spokesman said the agency does not comment on such matters.
After arriving at LAX on March 2 for a connecting flight to Seattle, the parents and their children – ages 7, 6, and 8 months — were detained and held incommunicado for two days without access to counsel, Inlender said.
Eventually they were split up, with the father placed in a detention facility in Orange County and the mother and children booked on a flight to Texas for placement in a family detention facility, she said.
It took an emergency motion filed in Los Angeles federal court by a team of pro bono attorneys to prevent the transport of the wife and children out of state. The family was released on parole by the government four days after touching down in the U.S.
They were allowed to travel to Washington state — their original destination — but were required to participate in the Deferred Inspection interview Thursday in Seattle to determine if they could stay in the country.
The family was awarded the special visas because of the father’s work on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan, where he served on an Air Force Base alongside U.S. military personnel and contractors, the attorney said.
Before receiving the visas, the United States consul thoroughly vetted and examined all five family members.
“America has to be a place of refuge if it is truly to be America,” said Mark Rosenbaum, director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project. “It’s unfortunate that it took a federal judge to remind our government that this family is part of our family.”
The family has asked to have their identities remain private.
“We are gravely concerned about the actions of the government in this case,” Inlender said. “There is little oversight of CBP, who appear emboldened to act with disregard for people’s rights. It sets up the potential for serious injustice — if a family who served this country for years can be subjected to this treatment, any immigrant is at risk.”
Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland in March blocked the most current executive order that would have suspended the unrestricted entry of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somali, Sudan, Syria and Yemen into the U.S. for 90 days. It followed an earlier Trump executive order that was blocked by a federal judge in Seattle in early February.
–City News Service