April 17, 2024

Pacifica Attorney Meha Goyal Helps Afghan Woman Gain Asylum in U.S.

Portrait of Pacifica attorney Meha Goyal, who worked with VECINA to help secure asylum for a client.

“The fear that my client faced in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over is unimaginable. I’m glad that I could play a part in helping her live in safety.”

A woman who escaped Afghanistan under threat from the Taliban was granted asylum in the United States last week thanks to the efforts of VECINA, an immigrant justice nonprofit based in Austin, TX, and Pacifica attorney Meha Goyal, who represented the woman in the asylum application process.

VECINA supports attorneys and other advocates fighting for immigrant justice in the United States through training, mentorship, and community education, among other initiatives. Meha began volunteering with VECINA as a pro bono attorney in its Afghan Newcomers project, which helps Afghans with asylum requests and other legal needs. Her work with the client—whose name is withheld to protect her and her family—began in April 2023.

“The fear that my client faced in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over is unimaginable,” Meha said. “I’m glad that I could play a part in helping her live in safety.”

Meha’s client applied for asylum in the U.S. based on the fear that, if she were to return to Afghanistan, she would be persecuted by the Taliban not only because of her family’s ties to the Afghan and U.S. militaries, but also because of her anti-Taliban political opinions and religious beliefs.

People who seek asylum in the U.S. must prove that they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution in their country of nationality because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. To evaluate a “well-founded fear,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services uses a four-part test, known as “The Mogharabbi Test,” which was laid out in a 1987 decision by the United States Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals in a deportation case known as the Matter of Mogharrabi.

Meha’s client applied for asylum because the Taliban, after they regained control of Afghanistan in 2021, targeted and threatened her family because members of her family had served in the Afghan and United States military in Afghanistan. The client also refused to comply with the political and religious rules for women. She and some of her siblings were able to escape, first into hiding in Afghanistan, then to a humanitarian camp in Abu Dhabi, before they were granted parole to the United States.

Meha’s client was initially granted humanitarian parole into the U.S. as part of a Department of Homeland Security program to assist vulnerable Afghans following the end of the War in Afghanistan, including those who had worked with the U.S. military during the war. But parole grants only temporary status in the United States. With a grant of asylum, the client can eventually apply for citizenship.