The Immigration Clinic Mobilizes to Assist Afghans Arriving at Fort Lee

W&M Law School Immigration Clinic Director Stacy Kern-Scheerer and IJC Fellow Nicole Alanko, J.D. ’18 arriving at Fort Lee to assist Afghans with their green card applications.

On Thursday, the William & Mary Law School Immigration Clinic Director Stacy Kern-Scheerer and Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow Nicole Alanko, J.D. ’18, traveled to Fort Lee, VA to assist Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan within the last several days. The Afghans arrived in the United States as recipients of Special Immigrant Visas, a program for those who assisted the U.S. military in Afghanistan. As the world watched Kabul fall to the Taliban, the U.S. Government began relocating nearly 2,000 SIVs out of Afghanistan and bringing them to Fort Lee.  

Special Immigrant Visas (or SIVs) are available to Afghans who helped the U.S. military, whether as interpreters or serving in other roles on military bases, and whose lives are now threatened because of their work with the U.S. military.  With SIV status, an individual and immediate family members may apply for lawful permanent residency (a “green card”). After five years of lawful permanent residency, SIVs may apply to become United States citizens.  

As part of a massive nationwide mobilization effort, Stacy and Nicole spent the day at Ft. Lee. In their roles as volunteer immigration attorneys, they helped prepare lawful permanent residency applications for multiple SIV visa holders, aiding in their next step toward permanent protection in the United States. The Afghans that Nicole and Stacy worked with had arrived in the United States only earlier this week. Stacy and Nicole spent hours going through the nearly one-hundred fifty pages of forms with the applicants, with the help of a volunteer interpreter. 

A volunteer’s jacket at Fort Lee, welcoming Afghans in English, Pashto, and Dari

In addition to legal assistance, while at Fort Lee, the Afghans were completing medical evaluations, receiving resettlement support, and spending time with their families. Within days, they will likely be resettled across the country by refugee resettlement organizations. “It was incredible to see the collaborative effort that went into making this happen,” said Nicole. “Seeing attorneys, interpreters, and volunteers from refugee resettlement agencies coming from across the country was so inspiring. Today was a perfect example of the ‘citizen lawyer’ ethic in action.” 

“To sit across a small table and be some of the first people in the United States to assist the Afghan SIV individuals and families is an extraordinary honor,” said Stacy. “The Immigration Clinic is committed to welcoming the SIV community not just with our words, but with our actions. It was our true privilege to aid SIV families in the lawful permanent residency application process. As a community of lawyers and law students in the Immigration Clinic, we have tremendous agency to respond to the moment, using our skills and training where and when it is needed most.” 

Donations by Immigration Clinic supporters made it possible for the Clinic to respond rapidly to this evolving situation. Your support allows the Clinic to represent immigrants in Hampton Roads and respond to emerging situations. Join us today by donating to the Shainwald Immigration Law Clinic Fund. 

Hampton Roads Refugee Relief (HR3) is a nonprofit organization that works with resettled refugees to meet their needs when they move to Hampton Roads. HR3 is currently looking for volunteers to assist refugees who are coming to Hampton Roads, including those fleeing Afghanistan. Learn more about HR3 on their website and sign up to volunteer.