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John Doe v. United States: Protecting access to the Afghan SIV program

The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is a critical immigration pathway enabling Afghans who face retaliation because of their work with the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan to relocate permanently to the United States with their families. Too often, however, the government’s administration of the program prevents these Afghan allies from securing the protections for which they are eligible.

John Doe is an Afghan civil engineer who managed numerous sensitive construction projects in Afghanistan on behalf of the United States over many years. In 2016, he applied for the first necessary approval for the Afghan SIV program: a finding of eligibility and authorization to proceed to subsequent stages of the application process, known as chief of mission or “COM” approval. In 2018, the government granted COM approval. But in 2020, the government abruptly—and unlawfully—withdrew it, claiming that a supportive letter of recommendation that Mr. Doe had submitted with his application was no longer valid because the supervisor who authored it could not reverify it. As the government was well aware, the supervisor was unavailable to reverify anything: he had been kidnapped by insurgents and remained captive.

In June 2021, after the government denied his administrative appeal, Mr. Doe filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He challenged the government’s withdrawal of COM approval and the policies on which the government relied, claiming violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Afghan Allies Protection Act. In October 2021, the government sua sponte reinstated COM approval, and in December 2021, it granted Mr. Doe a special immigrant visa. Mr. Doe voluntarily dismissed his suit in January 2022.

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