Leaving the Homeland behind

evacuation at hamid karzai international airport

Four brief stories of  Afghan Evacuees and the JFON Network 

New York

TJ Mills, managing attorney for New York Justice for Our Neighbors, has extensive experience in asylum cases. Over the years, his expertise has led the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) to deploy him in various hot spots around the world.

As the U.S. military began their withdrawal from Afghanistan, TJ was approached by a U.S. Attorney who is working with nearly 50 Afghan nationals in need of legal representation.

Although NY JFON doesn’t have the capacity to represent all of them, TJ is helping to find these evacuees the legal counsel they need.

Meanwhile, TJ is also working to help a former Afghan refugee—and now U.S. citizen—bring eight members of his family to safety here in the U.S.



“The stakes are so high in the work we do,” says Sarah Adkins, executive director for Neighbors Immigration Clinic—our JFON site in Kentucky. “And a huge part of our job is giving terrible, but truthful, news to people every day.”

Beginning in mid-August, Sarah heard from three separate Afghan Americans who were trying to bring family members to the U.S. during the rapidly deteriorating crisis.

In one case, she was told, the family in Afghanistan was planning to go to Kabul Airport—with no plan—and find a way to get on a plane.

Sarah advised them not to go, as the situation at the airport was violent and chaotic.

The Kabul airport was bombed the next day.

Luckily, the family had followed Sarah’s advice. But what can people who are desperate to leave Afghanistan do now? How can they join their family members in the U.S.?

Being granted humanitarian parole is near impossible for anyone residing in Afghanistan, explains Sarah. Currently, the best advice for Afghan nationals hoping to seek humanitarian parole is to first go to a third country and request it from there. And that means they will have to escape Afghanistan first.

The truth is we don’t have easy answers for our Afghan American families because it’s not an easy problem,” says Sarah, with frustration. “I don’t know how anyone gets out of Afghanistan.  We don’t know how they can make this happen, only that they must.”


El Paso, Texas

When Afghan evacuees began arriving at U.S. Army Base Fort Bliss, local organizations in nearby El Paso, Texas, immediately banded together to offer their help with both donations and services.

“This is one of the things I love about El Paso,” says Kristen Bowdre, executive director of JFON El Paso. “We’re a welcoming community. People show up when there’s a need.”


Services offered included “Know your Rights” presentations and information on U.S. immigration law. Immigration attorneys from several local nonprofits also counseled the new arrivals on the next steps they need to take to ensure they can remain in the U.S.

In addition, reports Kristen, USCIS (Citizenship & Immigration Services) staff members were on-site to help eligible people apply for work authorization and expedite their cases.

“The goal,” she says, “is to get people off the base and settled into a community as quickly as possible.”

Watch Kristen in this story by KVIA local news station in El Paso.



Over the years, Iowa MMJ—our JFON site in Iowa—has helped many Afghan SIVs reunite with family members in Iowa.

“I have three clients who are Afghan SIVs and naturalized U.S. citizens who petitioned to bring their wives here to Iowa to join them,” says Legal Director Ann Naffier. “They were all at various points in the process of plain old family-based immigration when Afghanistan imploded.

“We were so relieved when these young women were airlifted out of Afghanistan several weeks ago and brought to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin for processing,” she continues.

“Unfortunately, they are still stuck at Fort McCoy and are extremely desperate to leave. That’s what I am working on presently—trying to figure out how to get them out of there.”

A measles outbreak—since contained—contributed to the delay. All seven of the infected patients have recovered, and U.S. Army medical specialists have since vaccinated 97% of the evacuees for measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox).

Evacuees have also received their COVID-19 vaccinations.


Ann just contacted us to give us a happy report: TWO of the women have been released and are in Iowa right now!

We are crossing our fingers and saying prayers that the last remaining one will be following within the next few days.


Facebook featured photo credit: 1st Lt Mark Andries/ U.S. Marine Corps 


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