Afghan Man Denied Asylum by US Immigration Court Granted Rare Second Chance


Qabul – An Afghan man, identified only as Mohammad for his safety, recently had his asylum claim denied by a US immigration court due to what experts believe was a lack of understanding and representation. Mohammad, a university professor from Afghanistan’s persecuted Hazara ethnic minority, fled to the United States after receiving death threats from the Taliban, who regained power in 2021.

Mohammad crossed the Texas border in April 2022, surrendering to Border Patrol agents and subsequently being detained. A year later, his asylum hearing was conducted via video conference, with his words translated by a court interpreter. However, Mohammad struggled to express himself fully, including conveying his fear for his life due to injuries sustained in a 2016 suicide bombing.

The hearing, which lasted nearly three hours, ended with the judge denying Mohammad asylum. To his surprise, he later discovered that he had unknowingly waived his right to appeal the decision. Feeling alone and believing that the law had not been applied in his case, Mohammad expressed his concerns for the safety of his wife and children, who remain in Afghanistan.

The immigration court system, overwhelmed with a backlog of 2 million cases, has come under scrutiny for its lack of transparency and the pressure on judges to expedite proceedings. Hearing transcripts are not publicly available, and hearings are often closed to the public. Experts who reviewed the transcript of Mohammad’s case believe that he was ill-equipped to represent himself and did not fully comprehend the process. However, one former judge disagreed, stating that the ruling was fair.

Fortunately, Mohammad’s attorney secured him a rare second chance for a new hearing before a different judge. This development, coupled with the Biden administration’s decision to grant temporary legal status to Afghan migrants residing in the United States for over a year, has given hope to Mohammad and his attorney. They believe he qualifies for the temporary legal status and intend to apply. However, Mohammad, who has been in detention for approximately 18 months, fears that he may still face deportation.

During the initial hearing, Mohammad provided evidence of his injuries from the 2016 suicide bombing, threatening letters from the Taliban, and medical documents detailing his treatment for head wounds. The government argued against his asylum claim, suggesting that he encouraged migration to the US on social media and had other potential settlement options. The judge ruled that the threats did not indicate ongoing risk and cited the safety of Mohammad’s family since his departure.

Former immigration judge Jeffrey Chase, who reviewed the transcript, expressed surprise at the judge’s decision to waive Mohammad’s right to appeal. He cited case law supporting protection for individuals belonging to persecuted groups, even if they cannot prove specific threats. Another former immigration judge, Andrew Arthur, disagreed, stating that the judge ruled properly and that Mohammad understood the proceedings and willingly waived his right to appeal.

The backlog of cases in immigration courts, coupled with the rushed nature of hearings, has led to a denial rate of 63 percent for asylum cases nationwide. The denial rates vary among individual judges, with some denying all asylum requests and others denying only a small percentage.

Mohammad’s case highlights the hardships faced by asylum seekers navigating the US immigration court system. While he awaits his new hearing on October 4, his attorney is fighting for his immediate release. They believe that with proper representation, Mohammad’s case would have had a different outcome and that the US government has a responsibility to protect vulnerable individuals like him.

Share post:



For Kuwait’s new emir, Saudi ties are seen as key

Kuwait (Reuters) - Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah was named...

Pope Francis deplores Israeli killings of civilians at Gaza church

Vatican City (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday again...

Palestinians must find new path from Israeli rule after war, top official says

Ramallah (Reuters) - Immediately after Israel's war in Gaza...

Israel says it struck Hezbollah sites after attacks from Lebanon

Jerusalem/Beirut (Reuters) - Israel said on Sunday it had...