Trial lawyer group backs effort to bring Afghan attorneys to U.S.

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A worker arrives at his office in the Canary Wharf business district in London February 26, 2014.. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

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  • International Academy of Trial Lawyers to petition immigration authorities on behalf of four Afghan attorneys
  • Group says the attorneys face threat from Taliban due to their work supporting democracy

(Reuters) - The International Academy of Trial Lawyers will sponsor a move to bring four Afghan attorneys and their families, who face danger from the Taliban due to their work, to the United States under a program that could grant them temporary entry and the opportunity to apply for asylum.

The names of the Afghan attorneys, who are facing threats from the Taliban due to their work in a program supporting democracy in Afghanistan, can't be shared publicly due to the danger they face, according to the academy and nonprofit immigrant justice organization VECINA, which is behind the effort.

The International Academy of Trial Lawyers, which is an invitation-only organization for defense and plaintiffs' attorneys, has agreed to formally serve as the sponsors behind petitions to grant the attorneys and their family members access to the U.S. through what is called humanitarian parole.

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The program, which allows people who are otherwise unable to gain access to the U.S. to enter the country temporarily, typically relies on a sponsor who petitions on behalf of entrants and agrees to take on financial responsibility for them once they arrive.

"We had to do this in a hurry," said Roman Silberfeld, president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and national trial chair at Robins Kaplan. "We were motivated by the fact that these are people that tried to expand the rule of law in their home country." He added, "They are now targets, frankly."

The humanitarian parole process is often used in urgent situations, and with the Kabul consulate closed there are few other options for these attorneys, said Lindsay Gray, chief executive of VECINA. If approved and allowed entry into the U.S., the attorneys would still need to apply and be granted asylum to be able to stay, she said.

The academy has partnered with VECINA, a donor-supported organization that trains pro-bono attorneys to help with asylum petitions and other immigration needs, on previous projects at the U.S. border, according to Gray.

Recently, the academy's foundation provided a grant to back VECINA's new project working to bring Afghans to the U.S. After learning about the attorneys, the group approached the academy about personally backing their entry on Tuesday, according to Gray and Silberfeld.

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