News

Palo Alto man helps Afghan interpreter receive visa

Four-year journey has one more hurdle: the new executive order

Qismat Amin, an Afghan interpreter who helped the U.S. Army, has faced death threats from the Taliban for years. His face is well-known, having appeared on television helping government officials. But the U.S. government has taken four years to grant him a special visa.

Next Wednesday, he may finally be admitted to the U.S.

But as his quest for asylum nears an end, Amin faces a new hurdle: whether the U.S. government will let him in under the President Donald Trump's "extreme vetting" plan.

Afghanistan is not among the seven countries listed in Trump's recent executive order on immigration, but thousands of refugees are fleeing the country. Trump said during his presidential campaign that he wants thorough vetting of all persons coming from predominantly Muslim countries.

Matthew Ball, a Stanford Law School student and Palo Alto resident, worked with Amin during Ball's first deployment as a U.S. Army Ranger in the Tora Bora region, where some of the fiercest fighting took place during the American surge into the area.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

In total, Ball, a former captain and who is still a reservist, served in Afghanistan for three tours of duty and in Turkey for a fourth. Trump's executive order doesn't make sense to him, and it is putting the work that military personnel do overseas at risk, he said.

He hopes the order won't prevent Amin, his friend, from coming into the country. Ball and his wife, Giselle Rahn, have worked for about 1.5 years to get Amin his visa.

Amin and his family have faced death threats; the Taliban even confiscated his aunt and uncle's entire crop for a year and held it as ransom for Amin, Ball said.

"He's a public target; there's no place to hide it," Ball said on Wednesday afternoon.

Amin, who spoke fluent English, was just 18 when he worked with Ball. The son of a doctor whose family was pro-western, Amin saw interpreting for the Americans as a chance to do something good for his country, Ball recalled.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Without interpreters and allies such as Amin, American soldiers would largely be unsuccessful, Ball said. As a local, Amin understood how to approach the powerful elders that Ball and others relied on for cooperation. Sometimes the elders could play both sides, but Amin knew how to calm a tense situation or to suggest how to show respect or determine what the elders really wanted, Ball said.

"Qismat spoke phenomenal English," Ball recalled.

Even after Ball left the country, the two men kept communicating, he said.

Amin worked as an interpreter for four years; he stopped in 2013. He obtained a college degree in business but hasn't found work. Prospective employers don't want to hire him because they know he is waiting to immigrate to the U.S., Ball said.

In 2012, Amin began to apply for a special immigration visa to the U.S. through the International Refugee Assistance Project after realizing he wasn't safe. But the process has been unusually slow. His visa was hung up in administrative processing, and no one could get a clear answer about why.

Ball and his Stanford Law classmates filed petitions last year to get 12 Congress members, including Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, to file an inquiry into the case.

"We still didn't get a clear answer. There's an enormous bureaucracy that doesn't make sense," he said.

With the visa finally cleared, Ball said he is looking forward to his friend's arrival. Amin will stay with Ball and his wife in Palo Alto. He expects that Amin will need to make many adjustments to American life.

"He's never seen the ocean before; he's never seen a stoplight. He's never flown in a plane, and he's never been in a time difference," he said.

But Ball isn't worried about Amin's future once he gets to America.

"He's a really competent, incredibly driven guy and hard working. He just wants to be safe."

To determine Amin's prospects for adjusting, Ball and his wife said they recently visited an interpreter they know who has settled in Sacramento.

"He said, 'It's incredible. It's wonderful. Nobody's trying to shoot at me,'" Ball recalled. "The bar is low. As long as he can walk down the street without getting shot at, he'll be happy."

Ball said he isn't afraid refugees pose a threat to national security, despite the well-publicized terrorist instances in Europe. The majority of terrorist acts since 9/11 have been perpetrated by citizens or people who already live here, he said. He sees a trade off: maintain American values or risk what he believes is an infinitesimal chance of a refugee-initiated terrorist act.

He said he also doesn't agree with the executive order.

"It makes our job overseas a lot harder. ... We're turning our backs on these people. It also sends a message that has an impact on us, and I think that's bad. These are people who are fleeing ISIS. It's not like a bunch of people from ISIS are trying to storm the gates. You can't read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty and pretend that this doesn't go completely against it," he said.

Besides, Ball said, Amin like other locals who've aided the U.S. military has already gone through extreme vetting.

"For interpreters, there's no better vetting process than spending five years fighting alongside American soldiers," Ball said.

Related content:

Stanford joins universities in challenging Trump's travel ban

Appeals court to hear Trump administration's bid to reinstate travel ban

County files suit over president's executive order

Stanford student, others sue Trump over immigration ban

Stanford: Trump immigration ban 'deeply antithetical' to university values

Santa Clara County to file lawsuit against President Trump's order

A front row seat to local high school sports.

Check out our new newsletter, the Playbook.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Palo Alto man helps Afghan interpreter receive visa

Four-year journey has one more hurdle: the new executive order

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 3, 2017, 6:52 am

Qismat Amin, an Afghan interpreter who helped the U.S. Army, has faced death threats from the Taliban for years. His face is well-known, having appeared on television helping government officials. But the U.S. government has taken four years to grant him a special visa.

Next Wednesday, he may finally be admitted to the U.S.

But as his quest for asylum nears an end, Amin faces a new hurdle: whether the U.S. government will let him in under the President Donald Trump's "extreme vetting" plan.

Afghanistan is not among the seven countries listed in Trump's recent executive order on immigration, but thousands of refugees are fleeing the country. Trump said during his presidential campaign that he wants thorough vetting of all persons coming from predominantly Muslim countries.

Matthew Ball, a Stanford Law School student and Palo Alto resident, worked with Amin during Ball's first deployment as a U.S. Army Ranger in the Tora Bora region, where some of the fiercest fighting took place during the American surge into the area.

In total, Ball, a former captain and who is still a reservist, served in Afghanistan for three tours of duty and in Turkey for a fourth. Trump's executive order doesn't make sense to him, and it is putting the work that military personnel do overseas at risk, he said.

He hopes the order won't prevent Amin, his friend, from coming into the country. Ball and his wife, Giselle Rahn, have worked for about 1.5 years to get Amin his visa.

Amin and his family have faced death threats; the Taliban even confiscated his aunt and uncle's entire crop for a year and held it as ransom for Amin, Ball said.

"He's a public target; there's no place to hide it," Ball said on Wednesday afternoon.

Amin, who spoke fluent English, was just 18 when he worked with Ball. The son of a doctor whose family was pro-western, Amin saw interpreting for the Americans as a chance to do something good for his country, Ball recalled.

Without interpreters and allies such as Amin, American soldiers would largely be unsuccessful, Ball said. As a local, Amin understood how to approach the powerful elders that Ball and others relied on for cooperation. Sometimes the elders could play both sides, but Amin knew how to calm a tense situation or to suggest how to show respect or determine what the elders really wanted, Ball said.

"Qismat spoke phenomenal English," Ball recalled.

Even after Ball left the country, the two men kept communicating, he said.

Amin worked as an interpreter for four years; he stopped in 2013. He obtained a college degree in business but hasn't found work. Prospective employers don't want to hire him because they know he is waiting to immigrate to the U.S., Ball said.

In 2012, Amin began to apply for a special immigration visa to the U.S. through the International Refugee Assistance Project after realizing he wasn't safe. But the process has been unusually slow. His visa was hung up in administrative processing, and no one could get a clear answer about why.

Ball and his Stanford Law classmates filed petitions last year to get 12 Congress members, including Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, to file an inquiry into the case.

"We still didn't get a clear answer. There's an enormous bureaucracy that doesn't make sense," he said.

With the visa finally cleared, Ball said he is looking forward to his friend's arrival. Amin will stay with Ball and his wife in Palo Alto. He expects that Amin will need to make many adjustments to American life.

"He's never seen the ocean before; he's never seen a stoplight. He's never flown in a plane, and he's never been in a time difference," he said.

But Ball isn't worried about Amin's future once he gets to America.

"He's a really competent, incredibly driven guy and hard working. He just wants to be safe."

To determine Amin's prospects for adjusting, Ball and his wife said they recently visited an interpreter they know who has settled in Sacramento.

"He said, 'It's incredible. It's wonderful. Nobody's trying to shoot at me,'" Ball recalled. "The bar is low. As long as he can walk down the street without getting shot at, he'll be happy."

Ball said he isn't afraid refugees pose a threat to national security, despite the well-publicized terrorist instances in Europe. The majority of terrorist acts since 9/11 have been perpetrated by citizens or people who already live here, he said. He sees a trade off: maintain American values or risk what he believes is an infinitesimal chance of a refugee-initiated terrorist act.

He said he also doesn't agree with the executive order.

"It makes our job overseas a lot harder. ... We're turning our backs on these people. It also sends a message that has an impact on us, and I think that's bad. These are people who are fleeing ISIS. It's not like a bunch of people from ISIS are trying to storm the gates. You can't read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty and pretend that this doesn't go completely against it," he said.

Besides, Ball said, Amin like other locals who've aided the U.S. military has already gone through extreme vetting.

"For interpreters, there's no better vetting process than spending five years fighting alongside American soldiers," Ball said.

Related content:

Stanford joins universities in challenging Trump's travel ban

Appeals court to hear Trump administration's bid to reinstate travel ban

County files suit over president's executive order

Stanford student, others sue Trump over immigration ban

Stanford: Trump immigration ban 'deeply antithetical' to university values

Santa Clara County to file lawsuit against President Trump's order

Comments

Resident
Greenmeadow
on Feb 3, 2017 at 6:54 am
Resident, Greenmeadow
on Feb 3, 2017 at 6:54 am
Army Vet
Esther Clark Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:07 am
Army Vet, Esther Clark Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:07 am

He is not a Palo Alto man. He is Stanford law student and Ranger qualified Army Captain turned Army Reservist. Palo Altans should stop trying to ride on his coattails.


Resident
Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:16 am
Resident, Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:16 am
Sanctimonious City
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:12 am
Sanctimonious City, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:12 am

I guess the similar article using an example of a highly educated and privileged Stanford student who despite his temporary immigration inconveniences will most likely go on to earn big bucks in the high tech industry did not resonate very well.

So roll tape B with an example of somebody who was not affected by the executive order but use the article to list a seemingly unrelated list of false grievances against the new Trump administration.

Let's see if we can keep this straight:

* There is an enormous existing bureaucracy but that is implied to be the fault of the recent EO rather than the Obama administration.

* He is being processed successfully but somehow the changes in other countries might impact him. Even so, he will be approved before those changes could take place.

* Limiting any immigration is racist but Trump should have expanded the list from 7 to several others including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

* Restricting terrorists who have already stated their intent to destroy us and are actively trying to infiltrate our country to kill us will only make them more mad so we should let them in to kill us anyway.

Normally, I pick on sanctimony but this article is too full of irony. I am left wondering why this article for this worthy immigrant was not run two, three or even 16 weeks ago. I think ultimately it is advocating for Trump's policy but all of the liberal contradictions just leave me confused. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Marine
another community
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:18 am
Marine, another community
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:18 am

Before any of that he was a brunette. I wish people would stop trying to ride the coat tails of brunettes. Sound logical? No.

Also, he lives in Palo Alto, he is a Palo Alto resident, yes? [Portion removed.]


Resident
Fairmeadow
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:20 am
Resident , Fairmeadow
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:20 am

Thank you for your service to our country, and thank you for your kindness.


Resident
Charleston Meadows

on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:04 am
Name hidden, Charleston Meadows

on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:04 am

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Pam Decharo
South of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:07 am
Pam Decharo, South of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:07 am

Thank you Matt Ball for doing the right thing here - by standing up for this man and his family.

We should applaud Matt for helping to protect someone who risked his life to help Americans, and I for one am proud of him.

Matt, thank you for your service to our country and thank you for your integrity.


Scotty
Green Acres
on Feb 3, 2017 at 3:15 pm
Scotty, Green Acres
on Feb 3, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Wait Im sorry, he's been waiting 4 years to get a special visa and your blaming the delay on Trump's extreme vetting EO ? Fake news.


Not a Resident
Stanford
on Feb 3, 2017 at 6:43 pm
Not a Resident, Stanford
on Feb 3, 2017 at 6:43 pm

He is NOT a Palo Alto resident.

He is a Stanford resident.

Stanford is its own city with its own separate zip code and post office.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:46 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:46 pm

"your blaming the delay on Trump's extreme vetting EO ?"

Blame it on our fearful surrender of our national values. Once upon a time America was the Home of the Brave. Now it's the Walled-Off Community of the Scared of Everything. Trump the draft dodger has exploited those fears brilliantly.


I wish these two exceptional individuals all the best.


Flyboy
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2017 at 11:34 am
Flyboy, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 4, 2017 at 11:34 am

Having worked for the US "Alphabet" company for 16 years, a good many in the Middle East----I know first hand why this man is frightened for his life, and those of his loved ones.
I for one highly value his and Mr. Ball's courage and service. It is easy to sit back in our relative safe democratic haven and criticize and second guess.

For those that have experienced the horrors of armed conflict, where sometimes the enemy is not always apparent---YOU GET IT!


Resident
Fairmeadow
on Feb 6, 2017 at 4:22 pm
Resident , Fairmeadow
on Feb 6, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Joining others above to thank Veteran Matt Ball for his service and applauding his efforts to help this young man who risked his own life to help American Service Men and Women in Afghanistan.Wishing Matt Ball much success in these efforts. America and Silicon Valley should welcome this young man.
PS - My husband received his PhD at Stanford, but always shared a house with other students in South Palo Alto. He shopped, worked out, and voted in Palo Alto -- and was definitely classified as a resident of Palo Alto. Since Matt Ball, likewise is studying at Stanford (Law School) and living in Palo Alto, seems to me -- he is a resident of Palo Alto, no?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.