MoFo recently won asylum for an Afghan woman and her young son, after nearly a year of waiting for the Asylum Office to issue its decision following the asylum interview. The firm’s pro bono client is a widow from a religious and ethnic minority who empowered other women and girls in her community as the principal of a school for girls and a provider of community services. When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, she spent days making her way to Kabul with her young son in tow, afraid of being singled out and taken away by the Taliban for, among other things, remaining an unmarried woman out in society.
When the pair finally made it onto a U.S.-bound plane through the Operation Allies Welcome program, their ability to remain safe from Taliban persecution continued to rest on shaky ground. Asylum was their only chance of staying together; if their application were denied and they were forced to return to Afghanistan, under Afghan law, the woman would lose custody of her son to her late husband’s family. While awaiting the decision from USCIS, the woman did not let the delays and uncertainty of the U.S. immigration system slow her down—she learned to ride a bicycle (a skill she could never learn back home), learned English at a rate that outpaced many of her classmates, and even obtained her driver’s license. Together, mother and son began to build a new life here in the United States. And now, with their new asylee status, the pair can remain safe and together, and can turn this newly built life into a more permanent one.
The MoFo team representing the woman and son is led by Palo Alto partner Ken Kuwayti, and includes Palo Alto associate Michelle Larg, Washington, D.C., associate Nicole Ang, Los Angeles associate Erik Manukyan, and Palo Alto senior paralegal Daisy Belle Visitacion.
MoFo has been steadfast in its commitment to pro bono services for Afghan asylum seekers, assisting more than 40 Afghan refugees in their quest for immigration relief. In addition, our pro bono team completed over 300 initial screening interviews of Afghan refugees as part of Project Afghan Legal Assistance (PALA), an initiative led by the organization Human Rights First in response to the influx of Afghan refugees following the United States’s abrupt withdrawal from the country in the summer of 2021. MoFo’s support of Afghan refugees, through these various initiatives, marks one of the largest pro bono projects in the firm’s recent history.