By Caitlin Wilkins.
Attorneys, Marquette University law students and legal support staff from across the United States are volunteering their time at Task Force McCoy Legal Clinics to aid Afghan evacuees here through Operation Allies Welcome as they start their immigration journey.
While visiting the legal clinic, Afghan evacuees can attend classes about the legal rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens, how to apply for asylum or a special immigration visa, as well as receive one on one guidance from attorneys about the immigration pathways they qualify for.
“The legal clinic serves the Afghan guest community at Fort McCoy by providing legal information and assisting with the application process and questions related to the various immigration statuses in the United States,” said Sahar Mahmoud Taman, an immigration attorney and legal lead at the Task Force McCoy Legal Clinics. “Our goal is to reach out to as many guests as possible so they can make informed decisions about the next steps in their immigration process. The legal clinic also provides general information and resources about legal rights and responsibilities in the US.”
Classes and workshops started after attorneys realized Afghan evacuees didn’t have information about the immigration pathways available to them or how to file the paperwork needed.
“Our first goal was to identify what the needs are of the Afghan guests,” explained Taman. “The first need was information. They need to know what are their immigration options. So we were doing a great deal of presentations on different subjects because guests may be eligible for different pathways of immigration.”
Presentations explain the different types of immigration pathways, how to change your immigration status, the paperwork to submit, and the steps to follow with an attorney.
“Asylum is one way of obtaining legal status,” said Taman. “During the presentation and workshops, guests learn about asylum and what steps are needed to start their application. The asylum workshop provides support to guests to start filling in the asylum form I-589 and preparing a statement explaining their case and reasons for asylum. The Legal Clinic provides resources such as examples of the forms in Dari and Pashto.”
Afghan evacuees can also find out if they qualify for a Special Immigration Visa or a green card. Attorneys at the clinic can help fill out and review the paperwork needed for the process.
“The legal clinic also offers presentations on the Special Immigrant Visa program,” said Taman. “Many guests have already started an SIV application, or learn they may be SIV eligible and can start the SIV process. The clinic can inform them about the next steps. For example, many SIV applicants are at the point where they can apply for a green card. After a guest attends the SIV presentation, they are ready to start the adjustment of the status form. Attorneys at the Legal Clinic can review these forms.”
Since every case is unique, Taman and her staff of attorneys, volunteers, and legal students started offering workshops to help Afghan evacuees start the paperwork that can help them change their immigration status.
“They can attend what is an all-day asylum workshop,” said Taman. “We provide them the asylum form and walk them through the steps almost question by question. Then we get to the point where they have to write their declaration of why they are seeking asylum, and we assist them with formatting. Our goal is to get them as much information and to get them started.”
Afghan evacuees are also helping translate and teach other Afghans things they’ve learned in classes and workshops as a way to help give back to the community.”
“I’m happy to talk with them because most of them don’t know English, they don’t know how to write our language,” explained an Afghan evacuee volunteer. “I’m so proud that I’m working here, and working with my people that don’t know how to write our language. They don’t know how to fill out the forms, so it’s a good feeling.”
The feeling is mutual for the attorneys who are volunteering at the legal clinic.
“It’s really an honor to be able to assist the Afghan guest community here at Fort McCoy,” said Taman. “I think the importance of the legal immigration process is going to affect them for the rest of their lives. It’s very fulfilling to see that we are being a great assistance.”
Photo: An Afghan evacuee fills out immigration paperwork with a Marquette University law student at the Task Force McCoy Legal Clinic at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Dec. 15, 2021, as part of Operation Allies Welcome. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Caitlin Wilkins, 50th Public Affairs Detachment)
Story: This article by Spc. Caitlin Wilkins was originally published by DVIDS on December 16, 2021. The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service publishes content for the public domain.