An Afghan Engineer Who Served the U.S. Military Had His Visa Denied Because the State Department Can’t Reverify His Kidnapped Supervisor’s Support
Abdul served the U.S. military as a civil engineer for nearly a decade in his native Afghanistan. His years of faithful service drew the attention and scorn of insurgents. When gunmen arrived at his doorstep and ambushed him, he fled with his wife and four children to India, where they received temporary protection. There, he was faced with an impossible decision: stay illegally with no authorization to work, return to near-certain peril in Afghanistan, or look for a new home elsewhere.
He chose the third. ABC News, which reported his story in December 2020, shared that Abdul applied for a special immigrant visa (SIV)—an American immigration pathway designed especially for Afghan interpreters and contractors who assisted U.S. forces during military campaigns. SIVs theoretically provide a valuable escape option to these Afghans, who risk death and torture at the hands of the Taliban because of their connections to the United States. For hopeful recipients, though, long-standing issues with the program make visas extraordinarily difficult to get—as Abdul would soon discover.
Abdul applied for an SIV in 2016 and submitted his application materials diligently, including the necessary letter of support from his supervisor, Mark Randall Frerichs, an American contractor who worked as an engineer. The two grew close over four years of working together. In his letter, Frerichs vouched that Abdul was “a dedicated and hardworking company member.” Frerichs submitted his support in July 2017 and provided a copy of his passport. The U.S. embassy verified the authenticity of both. In February 2019, Abdul received his approval.
But then Frerichs vanished the following January, presumably kidnapped by Taliban-aligned forces. He remains missing to this day and the U.S. government continues to offer up to $5 million for information leading to his return. “Just as my brother, his life is very important,” Abdul told ABC News of his friend’s disappearance. “More important than anything.”
Frerichs’ kidnapping is tragic enough, but it’s made worse by the fact that the U.S. is using it as a reason not to grant Abdul a visa. In March, the embassy retracted its previous approval of Abdul’s application, with the following stipulation: “You did not provide a valid letter of recommendation with your letter.” Lawyers with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) have confirmed this happened “solely” because the immigration office couldn’t
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