Lawyer says Afghan family detained in LA is released

Afghan Family

An Afghan family of five who traveled to the United States on special visas and were detained by immigration officials at the Los Angeles airport were released from custody on Monday, according to the us government and the family's attorneys.

The father, mother and three young children - ages 6, 7 and 8 months - arrived at Los Angeles International Airport last Thursday and were immediately detained.

In addition to detaining the family, Customs and Border Protection prevented attorneys from communicating with them, lawyers said in court filings.

Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, declined to discuss the type of work the father did for the USA government but said he spent years working on US military bases.

Successful applicants for the special visas must show that they have experienced or are experiencing "an ongoing serious threat" due to their employment with the USA government, and they typically undergo years of intensive vetting by multiple national security agencies.

Soon after the incident, US district judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order restricting the government from removing the family from California.

A hearing on the case was previously planned for early Monday afternoon, the family's attorney said. For now, the family will be allowed to continue their trip to Seattle, where they plan to relocate.

Robert C. Blume, one of the family's pro-bono attorneys, said Monday that none of what the US government did in the case makes sense.

Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, declined to discuss the type of work the father did for the USA government but said he spent years working on United States military bases. They're not identified because of security reasons and are called "Does" in the court papers.

Federal officials have not said why they detained the family. "The visas require extreme vetting to get", said Talia Inlender, a lawyer with Public Counsel who is part of the family's defence team.

The Jan. 27 order caused chaos at airports around the world in the following days as visa holders heading to the United States were pulled off planes or turned around on arrival at USA airports.

After being held at LAX for two days, the father was taken to a detention center in Orange County and the mother and three children were taken to a similar facility in downtown Los Angeles.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton, who is hearing the case in Santa Ana, issued the temporary restraining order over the weekend.

Attorneys have filed a petition seeking the release of the Afghan family. "The balance of equities tip in their favor and the injunction is in the public interest", read the order.

Afghanistan is not one of the majority-Muslim countries included in President Trump's new travel ban, signed Monday.

Heller said she was able to speak to the mother, with the help of an interpreter, by telephone, after the family had been detained for more than two days.



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