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Visa hold puts Afghan interpreter back in hiding from the Taliban

Sep. 24, 2013 - 12:53PM   |  
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The Afghan interpreter who finally received a visa for a new life in the U.S. is back in immigration limbo—and back in hiding—because his visa may be revoked.

Janis Shinwari learned Saturday that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has without explanation frozen the visas previously approved for him and his family, according to an Army officer lobbying on his behalf.

Shinwari is not only still on a Taliban hit list, but he has sold his house and possessions, and quit his job, in anticipation of a new life in America.

“Not only did they squash his dreams, they ruined his life in the process,” vet Matt Zeller told Army Times.

Shinwari told Fox News that like most translators, he has become a target for Taliban militants and worries that he and his family are exposed.

He said he has already been left chilling threats.

“Someone wrote on the hood of my car, ‘Judgment Day is coming soon,’ ” he said. “I’m sure somebody is watching me. I cannot trust anybody.”

Shinwari had waited two years to receive the visa though a program for Afghans who helped U.S. forces there. A similar program for Iraqi interpreters is set to expire at the end of this month unless Congress renews it.

Shinwari received his visa two weeks ago, after 100,000 people signed a Change.org petition Zeller created for Shinwari. As Zeller’s interpreter, Shinwari saved his life in combat, and Zeller wanted to return the favor.

A State Department website now lists the case in “administrative processing.”

When reached for comment by Fox News, a State Department official declined to discuss Shinwari’s case but said in a statement:

“The Department has broad authority, under Section 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to revoke visas based on information that comes to light at any time indicating that a visa holder may be inadmissible to the United States or otherwise ineligible for a visa.”

The official said, “More broadly I would emphasize that every visa decision is a national security decision. Our visa procedures and processes are designed to address national security concerns at every stage of the visa application process.”

Zeller said he worries the Taliban concocted a phony tip about Shinwari, who has been in the news, to sabotage his visa. If that is the case, Zeller hopes the military’s screening of Shinwari for his job and the State Department’s previous scrutiny would outweigh any new information.

“He literally has nothing but the promise our nation made to bring him and his family to the U.S. for his near decade of faithful, honorable and heroic service to the U.S. military,” Zeller said.

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