Reflection on Advanced Clinical Work with Clients Who Are Afghan Refugees

Sam Becker, ’21, was a full-time student attorney with the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic during the Spring 2021 quarter and an advanced student during the Winter 2022 quarter.

This quarter, I’ve had the honor to work on two separate cases, both of families who the U.S. government evacuated from Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban took control of Kabul. As with other Afghan evacuees, these individuals were evacuated along with their spouses and children because they had worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan and were thus in danger for their lives under Taliban rule.

What confounds me most about these cases is the fact that they would ever exist as immigration cases in the first place. The U.S. government already spent an incredible amount of labor and resources identifying and evacuating people like our clients—and for good reason! They needed to get out of the country to stay safe. But I think most reasonable people would assume that the U.S. government, having brought our clients here, should create a more streamlined and accessible pathway to permanent residence and citizenship.

And so, I’ve collaborated with these two families to research the possible paths forward—like Special Immigrant Visas or the asylum process. In my interviews and counseling conversations with our clients, I’ve been humbled by the resilience, grit, and energy that they possess to push their cases forward and fight for the chance to stay in the U.S. It has been frustrating to see up close the needlessly bureaucratic processes and sometimes offensive questioning they face as applicants for lawful status; but all the more reason that it has been my honor to work in solidarity with them and put my privileges and skills as a fact gatherer, legal researcher, and legal counsel to good use.

While this experience has emphasized just how broken our immigration system is, I hope that my small role in my clients’ cases and lives has supported, welcomed, and encouraged them on their path toward establishing themselves in the U.S.