By Alex Gallagher
As chair of Rose Law Group’s immigration department, attorney Darius Amiri has helped countless clients around the world gain legal status in the United States.
He is used to fighting through bureaucratic processes and filling out papers upon papers to help clients obtain a green card, business visa or asylum.
But Amiri never thought his work at the Scottsdale firm would end up saving a life.
Amiri was referred to a case a few years ago by a high school friend who was a Marine battalion commander and wanted to help an Afghan interpreter appeal his denied application for immigration — a time-consuming process.
“He has to pass clearances, background checks, biometrics and medical exams,” Amiri says of the yearslong process.
The interpreter, who was only identified as Zabi to protect his identity from Taliban forces, had been going through the process in Kabul, and when the capital city of Afghanistan fell to the Taliban on August 15, Zabi lost the luxury of patiently waiting for the bureaucracy.
He knew if he was found by the Taliban, he was going to be killed.
“As the Taliban began to come back into Kabul, he asked what more could be done because there was no embassy or office to go to,” Amiri says.
With that in mind, Amiri began reaching out to members of Congress and was fortunate enough to receive a response from U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly’s office, which helped escalate Zabi’s case.
Still, Zabi felt like he constantly had to look over his shoulder as he moved through Kabul.
“He thought the Taliban knew who he was, but the Taliban who are in Kabul right now are not the same Taliban he was fighting in 2012 and 2013,” Amiri says. “They’re younger kids and fresh recruits.”
Despite the recruits being a new generation of the enemy Zabi once fought, they still posed the same danger to him and his family.
Zabi was fortunate enough to sneak around Kabul until he finally made his way to the airport.
It was when Zabi arrived at the airport that the danger increased.
Outside the airport, Marines had a manifest of who they could let in and who had to stay and wait.
Because of this, Zabi had to fight his way up to the gates but found himself having to wait in the wave of people seeking to flee Kabul.
As Zabi was waiting, Amiri kept pressing for a special immigrant visa, which is specifically for interpreters who assisted the U.S. military.
There are many requirements to obtain this visa, but primarily it involves passing a background check, demonstrating the applicant does not pose a security risk, had served for two years as an interpreter and had never abandoned his or her post.
There was a misunderstanding with one of the sergeants, who ended up drafting a document that asserted Zabi had abandoned his posting
Amiri obtained letters from several soldiers refuting that claim.
“Because that determination is such an important one, that document became a controlling piece of evidence that held up his case and resulted in the initial denial and need for an appeal,” Amiri says. “Initially when I was contacted, it was a case of trying to get this case appealed, and it quickly turned into a case where I had to get this guy out of Kabul before they killed him.”
Amiri’s attention quickly shifted from trying to get Zabi his paperwork to getting him to a safe location.
Zabi’s name and contact information were eventually transmitted to Marines at the airport.
On August 22, Zabi and his wife were extracted from Kabul through a coordinated effort that resulted from a connection made by the wife of a Marine in Kabul who had heard about Amiri’s efforts via social media.
Zabi and his wife were flown from Kabul to Qatar, where they will remain as Amiri continues to process their special immigrant visa applications. Once they get it, they can enter the United States as lawful permanent residents.
“This is another time in my career where I feel a calling,” Amiri says. “People who put their lives at risk to help our country, we owe them the bare minimum of getting them out of there and making sure they’re safe.”
Despite fearing for his life several times over the course of the past week, Zabi has nothing but admiration for the United States and the soldiers he once served alongside.
“The main takeaway from me is that he is upset about what’s happening in his country but there is no love lost for the American military,” Amiri says. ν