This week was a long one.
Apart from our usual responsibilities at GAIN, this weekend we partnered with other immigration assistance organizations to host an asylum clinic for Afghan asylees.
Since the fall of the Afghan government in August 2021, the United States has allowed thousands of Afghans to enter into and live in the United States. They entered the US as parolees, which gives them protection from deportation but does not afford the same benefits as asylee status. As a result, the majority of the Afghan parolees are filing for asylum.
The number of Afghans seeking legal help for their asylum cases greatly outweighs the amount of help available for them. Most petitioners are having to file their applications on their own. To help them with this process, GAIN and other Georgia organizations have hosted asylum pro-se clinics almost every month for the past few months. The purpose of these clinics is to listen to the applicant's story and help them consolidate it into an affidavit that will accompany their application.
Going into the clinic, I told myself I knew what to expect but I was not fully prepared. I met with two clients and sat with each of them for three hours, listening to their accounts of terror and persecution. For a total of six hours, I just listened and wrote. I asked some questions. I tried to pull out the details that I knew were most important for the application. If I heard something that sounded questionable, I tried to press them on it because I knew the asylum officer would do the same thing.
The true difficulty for me was listening to the stories and knowing how the case would turn out. My first client was a younger male who had worked for the United States military as a translator for a couple of years before he was let go because his operation downsized. As he told me his story, a grim feeling began to settle in. Although he worked with the US military, he was not working for them when the Taliban took over. He himself had received no threats from Taliban members and his family remained in Afghanistan. The Taliban had searched their house but none of his family members had been harmed.
Even though I have only been working in immigration for a couple of weeks, I already knew the outcome of his asylum application would likely not be favorable. One important thing that I have learned is that if the officer can find any reason for them to deny an applicant, nine times out of ten they will.
I continued to listen and ask questions. I wrote a rough draft of his affidavit that would be sent to the organizations in charge for review. The whole time, I felt guilty. I felt like I should say something about the strength of his case. But I could not bring myself to pop that bubble of hope that he had whenever he remembered a new fact about his story that he thought would help him.
My hope is that I am wrong about his case and that the asylum officer will grant him asylum in the United States so that he can live hear without fear of harm or death. I hope that he can bring his family over with him and that they will be able to escape the horrors of their pasts to find peace here in the US.