PALA Team Launches Welcome.US CEO Council Asylum Clinic for Afghan Asylum-Seekers
By Sophie Salmore
Last week, Google, Accenture, Welcome.US, and Human Rights First’s Project: Afghan Legal Assistance (PALA), hosted an asylum clinic at Google’s headquarters in New York City. Staffed by volunteers from Google and Accenture, we served 22 Afghan principal applicants. Each applicant was paired with one volunteer attorney and one non-attorney volunteer. Thanks to Google Meet, four of the 22 clients were helped online in virtual representation rooms. Among the almost 70 volunteers, 29 were attorneys, 40 were non-attorney volunteers, and the rest comprised of support staff and volunteer translators.
“The event brought together volunteers from every kind of background and served to scale legal resources for a community that is desperately in need of combined legal support,” stated Nadia Khalid, Senior Supervising Staff Attorney for PALA.
The CEOs of Google and Accenture toured the clinic. Both were impressed with how smoothly the event ran. Manuel Castro, the Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), also attended the clinic, to help inform his work with immigrant New Yorkers – especially how to provide culturally and linguistically responsive services to the immigrants being bussed to NY from Texas.
Volunteers at the clinic assisted the participants with Form 1-589, the Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. The Afghans in this clinic were chosen to participate because they were able to establish past persecution, or fear of future persecution if returned to Afghanistan, and their only option for immigration relief is asylum. If you were persecuted, or fear that you will be persecuted, because of your race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, you may apply for asylum in the United States, regardless of your current immigration status.
“For this group, like thousands of other Afghan evacuees who were evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021 and have been granted a 2-year parole status, obtaining asylum in the U.S. is the only hope for a safe and bright future. The PALA team worked for weeks to prepare for and make this pro se clinic a success. Thanks to our partners and volunteers, our collective work impacts the lives of refugees,” said Navid Ahmad Hewadwal, Legal Services Coordinator for PALA.
PALA provided legal trainings to the volunteers before and during the clinic. These trainings gave an overview of the law and how to identify different claims of asylum. All volunteers brought their own computers, which helped alleviate some issues that may arise when people don’t have regular access to computers and printers.
As a follow-up to the successful clinic, PALA will compile and provide a secondary review of I-589s and help applicants prepare their declarations. In addition, PALA will help these Afghans receive interview preparation, regardless of the interview date.
In partnership with the Afghan-American Foundation and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, PALA is co-leading a new initiative with Welcome.US called the “Welcome Legal Alliance.” Through this initiative, Human Rights First aims to further mobilize law firms, and the broader legal community, to address the legal needs of Afghan newcomers and their families
PALA and Human Rights First thank all those who attended this clinic and our partners Welcome.US and the Welcome Legal Alliance.