Global saga of Afghan who fought alongside US troops ends with joyous asylum news
Stars and Stripes September 13, 2023
A former Afghan soldier who was arrested after walking from Brazil to Texas and whose case drew support from veterans groups and lawmakers was granted asylum in the United States after nearly a year of waiting, according to news reports, his brother and his lawyer.
Abdul Wasi Safi, known as Wasi, learned on Tuesday that a federal judge had waived his immigration hearing the day before. The surprise decision allows Wasi to resettle in the U.S.
“It was a miracle,” his brother Sami-ullah Safi said Wednesday. “We went through a lot to get to this point, but we are so grateful for the support that we received.”
Zachary Fertitta, one of Wasi’s lawyers, also confirmed the decision in an email Wednesday.
People granted asylum have permission to stay in the U.S. and are not at risk of deportation. They also can apply for a green card, which grants permanent residency, and for authorization to work for an American employer.
“I was in shock, like, I say, ‘Oh, my God, is it real?’ ” Wasi said in an interview with Military Times, which first reported the story.
Sami-ullah Safi told Stars and Stripes that he plans to help his brother find a job and make a new life in the Houston area.
Wasi served as an intelligence officer for the special operations corps of the U.S.-backed Afghan defense forces, according to a letter by his superior provided to Stars and Stripes.
He was unable to board an evacuation flight out of Kabul during the chaos following the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban in August 2021.
Wasi, 27, feared retribution from the Taliban and hid in various safehouses. Family members and veterans groups paid for his passage to Pakistan and then Brazil in July 2022, according to the Texas Tribune, which began reporting on the issue last year.
Wasi flew to Sao Paulo and then three weeks later joined other migrants making the journey to the U.S., the Texas Tribune reported.
On Sept. 30, 2022, he was arrested when he tried to claim asylum after crossing the Rio Grande into Texas and was charged with illegally entering the country.
Criminal charges against him were dropped and he was released from detention in January, after two dozen veterans groups and several U.S. lawmakers wrote letters supporting him.
“Lt. Wasi served shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. special operations soldiers,” Army veteran Daniel Elkins, founder of the Washington-based Special Operations Association of America, said in January. “We know that more people would be buried in Arlington (National Cemetery) if not for people like Wasi.”