Family of 5 with visas released after being detained; atty says father worked for US military in Afghanistan

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Monday, March 6, 2017
Afghan family of 5 with visas detained in LA
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A family of five from Afghanistan is being detained in Los Angeles after traveling to the city on special immigrant visas.

LOS ANGELES -- A family of five from Afghanistan who was being detained in Los Angeles after traveling to the city on special immigrant visas has been released and reunited.

The family has been released from ICE custody and reunited. The government still has not said why they were detained despite having Special Immigration Visas, which are hard to get and go to those who have worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan or Iraq. The attorneys wanted the judge to rule that the family is now in the country legally. The government argued that while the family is in the U.S. on SIVs, it still has a right to analyze their admittance.

For now, the family will be allowed to continue their trip to Seattle, where they plan to relocate. Homeland Security can interview them there to decide if they can legally stay in the U.S. There will be a hearing on April 5 in Seattle. Homeland Security cannot detain or remove the family again without providing 72 hours notice to attorneys.

The Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown LA was where attorneys said the mother and her young children - ages 6 and 7, and an infant 8-months-old - were being held. Her husband was at another facility in Orange County.

The attorneys filed numerous petitions demanding their clients' release since they said the family had been granted the special visas after the father worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

"I think you have a family here whose father spent eight years risking his life and the life of his family and young children to serve the U.S. government. These are exactly the types of people that we should be protecting," attorney Daniele Katzir said.

The family, who is not being identified for their safety, was detained Thursday after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport for a connecting flight to Seattle.

On Monday, President Donald Trump unveiled a new travel ban. It replaces his controversial order banning refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Afghanistan was not one of those countries.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order late Saturday banning the government from removing the family from California. The order came within an hour of a flight to Texas that the government had planned to place the mother and children on, the judge said, according to a copy of the order obtained by The Associated Press.

"They applied through this program - they went through all the traps. They went through all the vetting, they did everything that was asked of them," Katzir said. "They got on the plane on the basis thinking that they have these visas... and the carpet is pulled out from under them for no reason that's been explained to them."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.