Afghan detained despite helping US is freed after 14 months

NEWARK, N.J. — An Afghan man detained in New Jersey for more than a year despite having a special visa for people who helped the United States has been released.

The man worked for five years in dining services for the U.S. Armed Forces and the U.S. Embassy Forces, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. He held a visa reserved for Afghan citizens who worked for the American government or its contractors.

He was released Tuesday night.

The ACLU said the man's work for the U.S. government made him the target of violent attacks and intimidation by the Taliban and that he was vetted extensively in Afghanistan before receiving a special visa sponsored by a retired U.S. Army sergeant.

The man, whose full name hasn't been released because of safety issues, was detained at Newark Liberty International Airport in March 2017 and held at a federal facility in New Jersey during deportation proceedings.

A federal judge in Newark cleared the way for his deportation last year, ruling that he was unlikely to succeed in his case against the government because his visa already was revoked. But a federal appeals court blocked that decision.

"Abdul came to the United States at our government's invitation, because his service to our armed forces and diplomatic personnel put his life at risk," said ACLU-New Jersey senior staff attorney Farrin Anello. "In granting him asylum, the immigration judge recognized the same danger. We are overjoyed that Abdul has finally been released and can live in safety."

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