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Afghan Family Detained At LAX Receives Approval For Permanent U.S. Residency

(Photo by Matthew Dillon via LAist Feature Photos pool on Flickr)
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An Afghan family of five, separated and detained for more than two days after arriving at LAX on March 2 with special visas in hand, has been granted permanent residency in the United States. According to the Associated Press, the family had its final interviews Thursday with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine their eligibility to remain in the U.S. on a special immigrant visa given to foreigners working for the U.S. military.

“We’re thrilled that the family has been admitted into the United States,” Talia Inlender, an attorney with Public Counsel, which represented the family, said in a statement. “But this decision only confirms that the detention of this family, and the actions of Customs and Border Protection, were completely unjustified.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the family, which requests that their identity remain private, arrived in LAX on March 2 for a connecting flight to Seattle, Washington, where they seek to resettle. However, the family was detained by federal agents, with the mother and her three children (seven, six, and eight-months old) taken to a detention center in downtown Los Angeles, while the father (who was held at LAX for two days) was sent to a separate detention center in Orange County.

“They had them for 40 hours incommunicado,” Mark Rosenbaum, of Public Counsel, said.

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The scene was “chaotic, panicked; it was a mess,” Lali Madduri, an attorney with Gibson Dunn, who also worked on the case, told the New York Times. “The whole time the children are crying, the woman is crying. They can’t understand what’s going on.”

The mother and children were scheduled to be transferred to a federal detention center in Texas. However, U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order to keep the family in Southern California.

According to the Associated Press, the family was then released from custody and reunited "pending the April interviews".

The decision Thursday by CBP was to "honor the special visa this family was admitted on," Josh Busch, director of communications for Public Counsel, told LAist.

“While today we celebrate for this family, this case easily could have turned out differently,” Robert Blume, a partner at Gibson Dunn, who represented the family in federal court, said in a press release emailed to LAist. “We were fortunate to hear about this family’s detention, and three of our attorneys rushed to the airport on a Saturday to stop the mother and three children from being put on a plane to Texas - but what if word hadn’t gotten to us? This was a man who put his safety at risk in Afghanistan by helping the U.S. government, and instead of a welcome mat, this family was greeted with detention and nearly torn apart.”

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