Catholic Multicultural Center’s Immigration Legal Services Works With Military Group to Safely Evacuate Afghan Allies: A Timely Helping Hand

(Top): Afghan family safely reunited in Madison; (Right): Family members during the evacuation from Afghanistan

CMCAfghanistan familyreunitedSm

By Talita Bornholdt and Janice Beers

Amid the horrifying news that continues to unfold in Afghanistan, the Immigration Legal Services Program at the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) has been working tirelessly to help two families in despair.

One of these Afghan clients, Abdul*, arrived in the U.S. in 2015 with an SIV — Special Immigrant Visa. These visas are granted to Afghan nationals who have provided services to the United States in the war effort. Since it is unsafe for them to remain in Afghanistan after serving as our allies on the ground, the SIV was created as a path to their U.S. citizenship. Abdul falls into this category after having served as an interpreter to the U.S. Marines during the war.

In 2016, Abdul traveled back to Afghanistan to marry Zahra. Later, in 2018, their son Ahmad was born. Zahra and Ahmad remained in Afghanistan while Abdul was in the process of bringing them to live with him. Everything changed at the beginning of August. With the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban take over, Abdul’s fear for the lives of his loved ones grew much stronger.

The obstacles to reuniting this family were staggering. Just getting to the airport in Kabul where the U.S. Embassy was operating was a harrowing ordeal. Passing through the Taliban’s checkpoints is a danger, especially for unaccompanied women and children with travel documents issued by the United States.

Led by Janice Beers, the Immigration Legal Services Program team at the Catholic Multicultural Center already knew of the difficulties with the task on their hands when they started looking for ways to reunite this family before the U.S. pullout deadline of August 31. When a Facebook post from CMC attracted the attention of the UW Law School Professor Megan McDermott, the happy ending for this family’s story began to unfold.

Professor McDermott introduced Janice to Anil D’Souza, a Veteran Marine, who then was able to connect the CMC’s immigration legal services provider to a group of service members and veterans, who call themselves “Team America.” The group is led by former Army infantry officer, Joe Saboe, who worked around the clock to coordinate a group of volunteer veterans to safely evacuate Afghan allies from the country before the airport shutdown. With the assistance of Worth Parker, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, and his effort called Task Force Dunkirk, they orchestrated an operation to help the family, which had the drama of a Hollywood movie. Zahra and Ahmad were provided with continuous guidance navigating the streets of Kabul in order to avoid Taliban’s checkpoints and finally being able to meet with the Special Forces who escorted them to the airport.

After great effort, a magnificent display of teamwork by all involved and extreme courage of a mother and her little son, Zahra and Ahmad were safely flown overnight to Qatar. A couple of weeks later in September, the family was joyfully reunited in Madison.

However, not all families were fortunate enough to have the exact right pieces fall into place for them to be evacuated. Another CMC client still waits to be reunited with his family. Samim* came to the U.S. in 2020 on a visa through his father. His father had served as a high-ranking commander in the Afghan military and had worked alongside U.S. forces for over 10 years.

Samim is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who lives in Madison and works 5-6 days per week, at times over 60 or more hours. Earlier this year, he traveled back to Afghanistan to marry his fiancée Jahedah and then returned to Wisconsin to continue working to save money to apply for his wife and son Amir to immigrate to the U.S. Tragically, in July of this year during a celebration of the Eid al-Adha festival, a massive car bomb exploded killing his cousin and causing injuries to Jahedah and Amir who were also in the vehicle. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack that had targeted his entire family as retribution for his father’s work with the U.S. military. Samim is now trying to apply for humanitarian parole on behalf of his wife and son, who are currently in hiding, so they may have hope of reuniting in the U.S.

The CMC Immigration Legal Services program continues to work tirelessly to help Dane County residents like Samim whose relatives currently live in Afghanistan and were unable to escape in advance of the Taliban takeover.  Their family members are in hiding because they fear for their lives and Taliban retribution. Afghans who remain in their home country are not eligible to register for refugee status until they are outside of Afghanistan seeking safety in a third country.

For our clients' family members who remain in Afghanistan, applying for Humanitarian Parole is one of the only legal remedies available to them. Humanitarian Parole is permission granted by the U.S. government for someone from another country to come to the U.S. temporarily because of emergency circumstances. The CMC will continue to assist such clients as they are able to and is closely watching the Afghanistan crisis as it continues to unfold.

* names have been changed to protect identity

To learn more or offer your support to the CMC Immigration Legal Services Program, please visit

09202021DisplayMadison DCR 09-21