Feds drop charges against U.S.-trained Afghan soldier seeking asylum

Charges of illegally entering the U.S. were dropped Tuesday against Abdul Wasi Safi, who goes by Wasi. He faced up to a year in prison and a fine of $5,000 if he pleaded guilty.

Wasi didn’t want a criminal record as he was starting a new life in the United States, especially after his service to the U.S. An assistant U.S. attorney asked a judge to dismiss the case against Wasi “in the interest of justice” and the judge agreed.

This whole episode has been unbelievable from the start. Wasi helped U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as did his brother. They were promised a new life in America after the war for their service to American troops. Wasi’s brother, Sami, left Afghanistan in 2015 and moved to Houston with a special immigrant visa for interpreters and others who were paid by the U.S. government. Sami worked as an interpreter for U.S. troops. Wasi was not eligible for that particular visa because he was not directly employed by the United States.

Wasi, a former Afghan special forces officer, stayed behind in Afghanistan as U.S. troops withdrew. He tried for days to board a military flight out of Kabul during Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. He was not one of the few who made it on a plane out of the country. We all remember the horrible scenes of thousands of Afghans on the heavily guarded tarmac.

Despite reassurances to the contrary at the time from the utterly inept Team Biden, the Taliban immediately rushed in and filled the leadership vacuum when the Americans left and the Afghan government collapsed. Wasi had been a special forces intelligence officer in the Afghan National Security Forces. All those who served with the U.S. and its allies became targets of the Taliban’s revenge killings. So, Wasi hid, fearing the worst for himself and his family. He heard of reports of killings of those he served with in the Afghan special forces.

Wasi’s work in military intelligence directly aided U.S. special operations missions. He studied journalism at a university. He often partnered on missions to secure operational areas against the Taliban and other insurgents. He was a prime target for the Taliban’s revenge. He hid with his family for months until he found a safe way to leave Afghanistan. He secured a visa to Brazil and traveled there in 2022. He realized he was not safe there after being beaten and robbed by gangs.

All along, Wasi kept his backpack with his documents showing his work with American troops. He kept the backpack dry as he crossed a huge river in the Darien Gap, a dangerous stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama. Police officers tried to extort him in Guatemala and took his backpack. He endured their beatings until he got the documents back. The journey from Brazil to the U.S.-Mexico border took months. He finally made it to the border near Eagle Pass, Texas in September. He was arrested there on a federal immigration charge. He was jailed in a detention center in Eden, Texas.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) advocated for Wasi’s release. She asked Biden to issue a presidential pardon for him. Others spoke up for Wasi’s release, too, like Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), both veterans.

Just three days ago I asked why DHS was not working on releasing Wasi. Perhaps it was Sheila Jackson Lee’s advocacy with the Biden administration and the increased publicity from others that pushed his case to the forefront. The criminal charges have been dropped so he can be reunited with his brother and his legal team can begin their work in his asylum case. It can take years to process.

“The immigration side starts now,” said Jennifer Cervantes, Wasi’s immigration attorney.

Cervantes said Wasi’s release may be delayed as federal agencies sort through additional steps. Wasi remains in Border Patrol custody. However, she said, those officials want Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take custody. She doesn’t think ICE will have any issues seeing Wasi’s sincerity.

“He’s definitely not a threat, he’s been vetted [by the FBI],” Cervantes said. “He’s not a flight risk, he wants to be here and he wants to proceed legally.”

You can bet your bottom dollar that Sheila Jackson Lee will hold a press conference in Houston and take credit for Wasi’s criminal charges being dropped. Let her preen. She did some good here and Wasi’s release is what matters. He deserves the freedom he was promised in exchange for helping American troops in Afghanistan. He earned it.

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