Texas Democrat asks for presidential pardon for Afghan soldier

Texas Democrat asks for presidential pardon for Afghan soldier

HOUSTON – U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is seeking the release of a former Afghan soldier seeking asylum in the U.S. who is being held in a Texas detention center after trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border to rejoin the his brother.

And to ensure that Abdul Wasi Safi begins his life in the U.S. without a criminal record, Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Houston, has sent a letter to the White House asking the Biden administration to pardon the Afghan veteran for any related crimes. upon his crossing the border. seeking asylum.

“This is a mistake that needs to be corrected immediately,” she said at a news conference on Friday.

[An Afghan soldier fleeing the Taliban spent months reaching the U.S. to request asylum. He was arrested at the Texas border.]

Wasi, as he is known, worked as an intelligence officer in the Afghan National Security Forces alongside US troops. He fled Afghanistan in 2021 after the Taliban began targeting citizens who had previously helped the US during the decade-long war. Wasi crossed three continents to reach the Texas border, where he hoped to meet his brother, who is now a naturalized American citizen. Instead, he was arrested and has been in custody since September 30.

“I am calling on the Biden administration to release my brother,” said Sami-ullah Safi, Wasi’s brother. “He believed in this mission of this country in Afghanistan. That’s why he fought alongside the United States Special Forces … to eliminate terrorism.”

In a letter to President Joe Biden, the congresswoman urged him to grant Wasi a pardon, saying a debt owed to our allies must be honored by the country.

“When their service exposes them to credible threats, we must redouble our efforts to keep our word, because doing so also protects our troops stationed around the world today and in the future,” the letter said.

Jackson Lee, a co-chairman of the House caucus on Afghanistan, is the highest-profile official calling for Wasi’s release. Earlier, some military and immigrant rights groups called on the White House to intervene in Wasi’s case.

Jackson Lee said Friday he believed the White House had not received those messages. Jackson Lee stood at a podium in the Mickey Leland Federal Building surrounded by supporters of the Safi brothers, including members of the local Afghan community in Houston, military veterans and new members of Wasi’s legal team.

[Veterans groups plead Afghan soldier’s asylum case in letter to Biden]

Wasi, who is facing criminal charges for attempting to cross the border without proper documents, was expected to have a plea hearing earlier this week. However, a new legal team asked for an extension. Wasi has also begun to cooperate with the federal government. He was interviewed by the FBI earlier this month.

The congresswoman said Wasi should be granted asylum without a criminal record.

“I characterize this as a logistical error and a nightmare for Mr. Safi,” she said. Jackson Lee specifically pointed to the misdemeanor charges as the main reason for the delays in Wasi’s asylum case.

A new trial date has been set for mid-February.

“I’m the last person who wants to jeopardize the national security of this nation, or jeopardize any security for the American people, but I think it’s important to try to be fair across the board,” Jackson Lee said.

A Houston-area volunteer set up a GoFundMe account on behalf of Wasi’s brother, Sami, to cover possible medical expenses from a team of periodontists, dentists, audiologists and mental health professionals on hand to evaluate Wasi after his release.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/01/13/sheila-jackson-lee-abdul-wasi-safi/.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, member-supported newsroom that informs and engages Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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