Immigration

An Afghan Engineer Who Served the U.S. Military Had His Visa Denied Because the State Department Can't Reverify His Kidnapped Supervisor's Support

The Kafkaesque visa program for U.S.-affiliated Afghans puts thousands at grave risk.

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Abdul served the U.S. military as a civil engineer for nearly a decade in his native Afghanistan. His years of faithful service drew the attention and scorn of insurgents. When gunmen arrived at his doorstep and ambushed him, he fled with his wife and four children to India, where they received temporary protection. There, he was faced with an impossible decision: stay illegally with no authorization to work, return to near-certain peril in Afghanistan, or look for a new home elsewhere.

He chose the third. ABC News, which reported his story in December 2020, shared that Abdul applied for a special immigrant visa (SIV)—an American immigration pathway designed especially for Afghan interpreters and contractors who assisted U.S. forces during military campaigns. SIVs theoretically provide a valuable escape option to these Afghans, who risk death and torture at the hands of the Taliban because of their connections to the United States. For hopeful recipients, though, long-standing issues with the program make visas extraordinarily difficult to get—as Abdul would soon discover. 

Abdul applied for an SIV in 2016 and submitted his application materials diligently, including the necessary letter of support from his supervisor, Mark Randall Frerichs, an American contractor who worked as an engineer. The two grew close over four years of working together. In his letter, Frerichs vouched that Abdul was "a dedicated and hardworking company member." Frerichs submitted his support in July 2017 and provided a copy of his passport. The U.S. embassy verified the authenticity of both. In February 2019, Abdul received his approval. 

But then Frerichs vanished the following January, presumably kidnapped by Taliban-aligned forces. He remains missing to this day and the U.S. government continues to offer up to $5 million for information leading to his return. "Just as my brother, his life is very important," Abdul told ABC News of his friend's disappearance. "More important than anything." 

Frerichs' kidnapping is tragic enough, but it's made worse by the fact that the U.S. is using it as a reason not to grant Abdul a visa. In March, the embassy retracted its previous approval of Abdul's application, with the following stipulation: "You did not provide a valid letter of recommendation with your letter." Lawyers with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) have confirmed this happened "solely" because the immigration office couldn't reach Frerichs to reverify his letter of support.

Abdul had reached the final stages of the application process—which has 14 arduous steps—at that point. He scrambled to collect two new letters of recommendation, but those too were rejected because they came from supervisors who hadn't worked for the U.S. government for the requisite two years. Because immigration officials couldn't reach the kidnapped Frerichs to confirm for a second time that he was who he said he was, Abdul's perfectly valid approval was scrapped.

IRAP announced Wednesday that it had filed a lawsuit on Abdul's behalf, seeking to invalidate the withdrawal of his approval. Katie Austin, a staff attorney at IRAP, conveyed that Abdul's "life has been upended by his service to the United States; the least our government could do is decide his application in a lawful manner."

Sadly, Abdul is not the only American ally to experience this bureaucratic nightmare. Experts say that SIV applications are routinely mishandled due to a shortage of trained personnel, bad translators at visa interviews, and mistakes made by the State Department. Reason previously covered the story of Sayed, an Afghan interpreter who has been working to receive an SIV for over a decade. Like Abdul, he has been subject to rejection on questionable procedural grounds; he "was recommended for termination" from his job in 2012 after other interpreters claimed he was receiving undue pay. Despite collecting numerous awards and commendations over his decade of service, his SIV petition was revoked.

Many lawmakers recognize that the SIV program as it currently stands cannot adequately serve the Afghan interpreters and contractors America put in harm's way. Pieces of legislation aim to reduce the average SIV processing time, which is nearly three years long, and raise the visa cap, which is insufficient for the 70,000 Afghans currently waiting for responses to applications. A bill passed by the House on Tuesday eliminated a medical examination requirement, which poses difficulties to applicants in the COVID-addled Afghanistan.

What will be done to address issues like Abdul's and Sayed's is less clear. Even with the White House announcing a plan to evacuate Afghans who assisted the U.S. military—a critical lifeline for thousands—there will be helpers who fall through the cracks by no fault of their own.

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  1. Like Abdul, he has been subject to rejection on questionable procedural grounds; he “was recommended for termination”

    And the Taliban will take care of that.

    But seriously, why any indigenous forces would work with us at this point is beyond me.

    1. Great question. This man assisted our troops putting his own life in danger. He is educated and can likely get a job in the US with minimal assistance from the government. There seem little reason to be so picky. How often do people complain about government bureaucracy when it is slowing down a business or project, he where the slow down is important is a person’s life may be at risk.

      1. “Our” Kleptocracy’s troops, Paleface? I vote Libertarian, so no invading troops or murdering cops belong to me.

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      2. I believe the thinking is ‘we don’t actually know who the fuck these people are because our record keeping is so shit – only the people they worked with know they existed’ along with ‘we can’t let *terrorists* into the country – I’ll get reprimanded!’.

        So they make these hoops to jump through and look for reasons to deny – procedures were followed though.

        Ignoring that we basically filled large parts of Michigan with random Somalis and Iraqis without worrying about who they were.

        1. You are right about that. It is a real issue over there. They only have one name and national literacy is probably at about 10%. Vetting them is impossible so do you know what was done? Nothing. There were bad people running around on every base. The entire security situation was a disgrace.

  2. Vogons and their poetry…

    1. “Oh freddled gruntbuggly,
      Thy micturations are to me
      As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
      Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes,
      And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
      Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts
      With my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!”

      1. That does cause physical pain.

  3. Weren’t we supposed to be out of Afghanistan a couple of months ago? Whatever happened with that?

    1. That was the Orange Man’s timeline.

      Like everything else in Biden’s administration, it’s all about signaling, thus we’re leaving on 9/11.

      1. “Leaving”

      2. thus we’re leaving on 9/11/2028.

        FTFY.

        1. Goodbye and thanks for all the fish.

          1. ++

    2. The agreement with the Taliban was last May.

      Biden altered the deal. Pray he does not alter it further.

  4. All Abdul has to do is make it to Mexico and then turn north. And maybe use the name Sanchez. Uncle Joe will take him in.

    1. My thoughts, exactly. And if he promises to vote Democrat, his citizenship papers will be expedited and he will be immediately settled in a red or swing state.

    2. Was writing “if only he had fled to Tijuana or Juarez instead of India,” but you got me already.

  5. Abdul, my friend, they’re just not into you.

  6. If only he had abdual citizenship he’d already be here.

  7. Interesting and why again is India not letting him in?

    1. He entered India illegally. Apparently some countries have a problem with that.

  8. Did his ancestors come over here on the Mayflower? If not he doesn’t belong here. Geez, get with the program already. God made this country for descendants of the Mayflower.

    1. Judeo-Christians.

      The rest are guest workers.

    2. An utterly retarded strawman. Ive know some white supremacists in my days and they dont even say shit like this.

      Idk, maybe the Kennedys and their ilk think this way? But… Ive found blue bloods to pretty apolitical. They know how to get theirs regardless of who the moronic masses vote into office.

      1. The Kennedys are descended from 19th century Irish Catholic immigrants, so I doubt they’d be in favor of the Mayflower thing, nor of favoring white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

  9. That’s the problem with having a National Socialist government. Sooner or later denazification and war crimes trials catch up with Quislings and puppets beholden to foreign invaders. Positive Christian altruism frowns on leaving people be, and urges invasion, meddling, coercion and bloody sacrifice instead.

  10. they should have learned from our past engagements. when we loose and leave we rarely help those who helped us and even sometimes like with Obama rat out those who helped us get Osama

  11. ‘Wow! That’s some catch you got there, that catch 22!’

  12. sounds like a valid asylum claim, they can’t pass it through with all the BS ones?

  13. It is all his fault. USA is know and has a long history of being dicks to everyone. He should never have done anything with the US.

    1. MG shows up to prove once again how pathetic and stupidly lefty shits can be. You, as a supporter of giant government now find that maybe it isn’t a good idea?
      Suggest you fuck off and die, note the location of your grave, so your dog and every other dog in the neighborhood knows where to shit.

  14. If I were a local l, I would of work with the U S
    We have a long history of abandoning our local allies

  15. The Kafkaesque visa program for U.S.-affiliated Afghans puts thousands at grave risk.

    Uh, if the Kafkaesque visa program is putting them at grave risk, why don’t they just walk away? My guess would be that, while the visa program is inconvenient, that’s not what’s putting them at risk.

    1. Because they are at risk by staying in Afghanistan and the visa program issues are putting them at risk by blocking their way out.

  16. How about we stop meddling in other countries and creating problems like this? I don’t want more culturally incompatible immigrants. If we hadn’t recruited him over there we wouldn’t have a moral obligation to bring him over here.

  17. I’m not sure what the outrage is about. Are you saying that everybody who gets hired by the US military abroad should automatically get an immigrant visa? Or only those who cause enough trouble at home to face death threats?

    Here’s the deal: nobody has a right to a US immigrant visa; it is given out selectively, and until it is issued, you have no guarantee that you’ll get it.

    Plan your life accordingly. Don’t work for US troops if you can’t handle that.

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