An Afghan I’ll call Mohammad spent most of the past 12 years working on behalf of the United States government in Afghanistan—first in the U.S. embassy in Kabul, then for a Department of Defense contractor in the violent region where he was born in 1981, at the beginning of the four-decade Afghan wars, and where he lived with his wife and six children. In 2010, Mohammad applied for admission into the U.S. under the Special Immigrant Visa program, created by Congress in 2008 to help Iraqis and Afghans who have risked their lives working for Americans in their countries. Wrongful rejections and bureaucratic delays pushed Mohammad’s application back year after year—through three American presidencies; through strategy reviews, troop drawdowns, and peace negotiations; through several attempts on his life; and through the murder last October of three of his relatives at a wedding ceremony where the Taliban expected to find Mohammad.
“‘We thank you for your continued patience,’ is how you concluded your November 9th email,” Touro Law Center Professor Marjorie Silver, his pro bono
attorney, wrote to the U.S. “visa processing specialist” who had sent another pro forma letter in response to yet another inquiry about Mohammad’s application.
It is one thing for me to be patient, as I sit safely and comfortably in my home in New York. I imagine you enjoy safety as well. My client, however, has tried to be patient for many years as the inexplicable holdup in getting him safely to the United States drags on and on. Any day now, I fear hearing (or not hearing) that the Taliban has succeeded in their attempts to execute him. His life is unbearable, especially since his extended family now holds him accountable for the Taliban’s execution of his uncle, nephew, and cousin last month. His family is furious that he ever worked with the United States, thus putting all of them in danger.
On December 30, 2020, after 10 years of waiting, Mohammad received the news that he had finally cleared the first of many barriers to receiving a U.S. visa. “Hello and good morning,” he wrote to Silver and another lawyer, Julie Kornfeld. “Please congratulate me I got [U.S. embassy] APPROVAL 🤩🤩.”