Afghan Mother Pleads for her Children’s Safety

By USCRI August 13, 2021

Suneeta, an Afghan woman living as a lawful permanent resident in Albany, New York, has four children who live in Kabul, Afghanistan, aged seventeen, fifteen, nine, and seven. Suneeta’s husband, the father of her children, worked with the U.S. Military as an interpreter and Team Leader with the security forces at Camp Eggers. He disappeared in 2013, while Suneeta was pregnant with her fourth child; it is believed that due to his work with the U.S. military he was taken by the Taliban. He has not been heard from since and is presumed to be dead.

After Suneeta’s husband’s disappearance, she fled to Pakistan with her children. She and her children were given refugee status by UNHCR. Some time later, one of Suneeta’s brothers-in-law came to visit them and was playing with the children outside. Suneeta realized that he had kidnapped the children from her and had taken them to her husband’s family. In Afghanistan, women do not have custody rights to their children if the father passes away; it is common practice that the children are passed to the father’s family.

Suneeta’s refugee case was picked up for resettlement in the United States. She thought this was her chance to get help from the U.S. government to get her children back, so she came to the U.S. without her children. From her first day in the U.S. she began advocating for her children. She asked anyone and everyone for help. The children ended up escaping their paternal family and fled back to Pakistan where they stayed with a maternal uncle for a few months. An I-730 Petition was filed on their behalf. The uncle then left the children because he had to care for his own family back in Afghanistan. The children were on their own, in a country that was not their home, and therefore were vulnerable to human trafficking. Humanitarian parole applications were filed and approved within weeks – June 2020 to be exact.

The Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan gave the children an interview date, but turned them away because they did not have passports, a fact the Embassy was made aware of prior to the interviews. Suneeta saw that the children needed passports and so the children went back to Afghanistan to secure the necessary documents. They now live in the Kabul area and have not been given an interview at the US Embassy in Kabul, which is the last step in granting humanitarian parole. When the Embassy and Senator Gillibrand’s office was contacted, the Embassy stated that they are not conducting any interviews for people applying for humanitarian parole.

In the meantime, the Taliban is moving throughout the country, closing in on Kabul. Half of the international border crossings have been seized. While 1,100 American-affiliated Afghans have been evacuated to the United States, around 80,000 more eligible for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and their families remain in Afghanistan, stuck in the visa processing pipeline, or unable to procure the adequate documentation to apply. These children, despite the fact that their father worked directly for the US, are not eligible for the SIV program because their father is not present to be the primary applicant. If the children do not get humanitarian parole, they may be lost to Afghanistan forever– the children of a man who gave his life to protect the U.S. troops. The children of a mother who, through unimaginable stress, works and contributes to her community and society in New York, and who has tirelessly advocated to bring her children to this country. Too many children are lost to human trafficking and conflict — we have the chance to save four.

Suneeta pleads: “My husband put his life in danger to keep the troops safe. He was working days and nights, he didn’t sleep. Now is the time to help us. Please, help my children.”

For additional information on this story contact us at uscri@uscridc.org 

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