The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last summer came fast and furiously. Many Afghans fled or were evacuated immediately, leaving on overcrowded planes, buses, and trains. But hundreds of thousands remain in the country, including those who worked in cooperation with the United States Army, workers for Non-Governmental Organizations, and others targeted by the Taliban as enemies. According to Ross Margulies, associate with the Nashville office of Foley Hoag, LLP, the situation is dire. And Margulies and other attorneys around the country have banded together to help. “When this first happened, I felt overwhelmed and powerless. This is a horrible situation,” he says, “But as time went on, I realized that as an attorney, there is something I can do.”
Margulies and hundreds of other attorneys created an informal group they are calling the “JD Afghan Express.” The group is actively pursuing sponsors for families and individuals who want to come to the U.S. Securing a sponsor is a critical step in receiving what is called, “humanitarian parole,” meaning there is an urgent humanitarian need to leave. “For those with no connection to the U.S it’s much harder than, for example, interpreters who already had contacts,” says Margulies, “There are literally thousands who would qualify, but they have no sponsor.” The attorneys, all working pro bono, created a simple step-by-step form with instructions on how to become a sponsor. According to Margulies, anyone can fill out a form of support. “It’s much less scary than it sounds once you understand what’s involved,” he says, “It should be a thoughtful decision, but it’s a very real way to make a difference.”
As more time passes, those left behind face a growing danger. Andrew Webber is an associate at Fenwick and West, LLP. He is also a former officer in the United States Army and served two deployments in Afghanistan. He says the situation on the ground is deteriorating, “The Taliban appeared to be more moderate and reasonable than before, but they are starting to run out of money. That means they will be seeking out people who helped the U.S, and those who are outspoken against the Taliban. They are winding up on ‘kill on sight’ lists,” he says. And Margulies says right now, the Biden administration has greater resources to help refugees, so the timing is critical. And Webber says the State Department and Department of Homeland Security is so bogged down, it is easier for private individuals and groups to make progress. “There are lawyers working with policy makers to get legislative action on an ad hoc basis, but that will take some time.”
The city of Nashville has a long history of providing aid to refugees from all over the world. Andrew Phay is a member of Woodmont Christian Church. Over the years, the church has helped people from Bhutan, Myanmar and Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has supported the local Muslim community. Phay says the church is expecting to work with those from Afghanistan, as well once they arrive in Nashville. “Over the years, Nashville has become a very popular and friendly place for refugees from all over the world. We have joined together with the Jewish community in support of the Mosque and we hope to continue.”
Andrew Webber says to date, a few people from Afghanistan have arrived in the U.S, but more end up in other third world countries while they wait for their paperwork to complete the process. And as the danger grows, Ross Margulies urges anyone interested to consider sponsoring someone. “This is literally playing a role in saving someone’s life.” He adds that groups of people and organizations can also serve as sponsors. For more information about the process and to complete an application, visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScu83uczztbvJNMwLESFB4RYBexA2utERqIB74rhitSXtnvYg/viewform.
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