Abdul Wasi Safi worked as an aide to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He is one of many Afghan helpers who were promised refuge in the United States when the war ended. Unfortunately, Safi is falling through the cracks.
The disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan by Biden and his advisers is well-documented. We have all seen the coverage of the final hours at the airport in Kabul. Desperate Afghans were hanging on to the military aircraft as they taxied down the runway. The scene was chaotic, to say the least. It was heart-wrenching to watch. The scenes playing out on screens at home brought back memories of the last hours of U.S .troops in Vietnam.
When American forces withdrew from Afghanistan, Wasi Safi went into hiding. He learned that friends in the Afghan military had been killed by the Taliban.
He secured a visa to Brazil and traveled there in 2022. He soon realized that he wasn’t much safer there as he was beaten and robbed by gangs. Wasi Safi began traveling to the U.S. in the summer of 2022. He kept his backpack with his documents showing his work with American troops dry by holding his backpack above his head as he crossed a huge river in the Darien Gap, a dangerous stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama. When police officers in Guatemala tried to extort him and took his backpack, he endured their beatings until he got the documents back.
The journey from Brazil to the U.S.-Mexico border was a months-long one but he finally made it to the border near Eagle Pass, Texas in September. He was arrested on a federal immigration charge. Safi remains jailed at a detention center in Eden, Texas. Because of his arrest, he fears his asylum claim will be denied.
I wrote about Safi a week ago. At that time, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), with whom I very rarely agree in politics, garnered publicity for calling upon Biden to issue a pardon for Safi so he can remain in the United States and join his brother who is already here.
Sami Safi said his brother has become disillusioned since his detention, believing the documents he thought would save him are worthless.
But Fertitta said those documents show “he’s clearly an ally, was trained by our troops, worked with our troops.”
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, last week sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking him to pardon Wasi Safi for his immigration-related charges. She said Thursday that his documents show he’s “an individual who obviously loved this country … and was willing to die for this country.”
Republican Congressmen Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Michael Waltz of Florida, as well as more than 20 veterans groups have also called for Wasi Safi’s freedom while his asylum claim is reviewed.
The 27-year-old needs medical care, which he is not receiving in detention, according to his criminal defense attorney, Zachary Fertitta. He received serious injuries from beatings during his journey, including damaged front teeth and hearing loss in his right ear. A GoFundMe page has been set up to pay for medical care when he is released.
The White House, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, which is prosecuting his case for the Justice Department, and CBP have not commented on the case.
During a news conference Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said he couldn’t comment on Wasi Safi’s case but that the Defense Department is “supportive of any efforts that we can make to ensure that we’re taking appropriate care of” the country’s Afghan allies.
Fertitta said Wasi Safi’s criminal case has to first be resolved before his asylum claim can be considered, and he’s hoping that resolution doesn’t include a conviction, which could imperil the asylum request.
The United States has taken in almost 76,000 Afghans who worked with American troops since 2001 as translators, interpreters, and partners. They arrived on military planes during the withdrawal from Afghanistan but their immigration status remains unclear. Congress failed to pass a proposed law, the Afghan Adjustment Act, that would solidify their legal residency status.
His brother, Sami, remains hopeful for Wasi. “I am hoping that President Biden and those who have authority over this case step up and save his life. He has given enough sacrifice for this country. My whole family has sacrificed for this country,” he said.
Sami lives in Houston now. He was employed by the U.S. military as a translator since 2010. That made him eligible for a special immigrant visa for interpreters and others who were paid by the U.S. government. His visa allowed him to move to Houston in 2015. One glitch for Wasi is that he is not eligible for that visa. He was not employed directly by the U.S. That’s something his attorneys will have to work out for him. He has documentation of his contributions, after all.
Where are Joe Biden, Secretary Mayorkas, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken? They should be getting his man out of detention and allowing him to remain with his brother until his asylum hearing. It’s the least they can do after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that allowed the Taliban to rush in immediately and fill the vacuum of leadership.