Oroville Mercury-Register

Father who fled Afghanista­n sues US to reunite with young sons

- By Julie Watson

SAN DIEGO » The Afghan man was attending a conference in California as part of his job for a U.S.government funded project in Afghanista­n when the Taliban sent a written death threat to his home, forcing him to make a heart-wrenching decision: He would not return to his wife and two young sons and instead would seek asylum and try to bring them to the United States.

Two years later, Mohammad said he regrets leaving them, and wished he had never worked for the U.S. government given the price he has paid.

As Mohammad tried to get visas for his family, his wife collapsed in 2020 and died of a heart attack while the Taliban threatened them. Mohammad, who lives in California, has been fighting ever since to be reunited with his sons, who are now 9 and 11, and are moving from house-to-house, living in hiding with their grandmothe­r and uncle, he said. He asked that only his first name be used to protect them.

On Thursday, the Internatio­nal Refugee Assistance Project, whose lawyers are working on his behalf, filed a lawsuit in a federal court in San Francisco against Secretary of State Antony Blinken, alleging the administra­tion failed in its legal obligation­s under the Afghan Allies Protection Act to help his family despite his work for the U.S. government during the 20-year war there.

“The only thing that I want is just one hug” from my kids, Mohammad said.

Mohammad said he has repeatedly asked the U.S. government for help. He contacted the State Department in August after bullets pierced the home where his sons were hiding before the Taliban took control of the country. He asked for his children to be evacuated as the U.S. military conducted one of the largest airlifts in history, but they were left behind.

A State Department spokespers­on said in an email to The Associated Press that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Mohammad communicat­es daily with his sons either through calls or texts.

His youngest has broken down crying, asking, “Dad, are they going to kill me?”

“What can I say?” Mohammad asks.

He sent another letter to the State Department on Sept. 9 asking that his sons be granted humanitari­an parole, but again he said he got no response. He also contacted his California lawmakers.

Mohammad was approved for a special immigrant visa in January and applied the next month for his sons, requesting that their visa applicatio­ns be expedited because they are in “imminent danger.” Their applicatio­ns are still pending.

The lawsuit states that “removing his children from Afghanista­n, where they are in daily peril, and reuniting them with their only remaining parent is essential to their survival and wellbeing.”

“At this point the government has known since mid-August at minimum that these kids are alone and in serious danger, and they didn't take any action to protect them,” said lawyer Alexandra Zaretsky of the New York-based Internatio­nal Refugee Assistance Project.

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