NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the deportation of an Afghan man trying to enter the United States on a special visa for people who helped the U.S. military.
A judge on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia late Wednesday blocked a New Jersey federal judge's decision to allow the deportation.
Judge Jose Linares in Newark, in ruling against an emergency temporary restraining order, said the man was unlikely to succeed in the case against the government because the visa was already revoked.
Government lawyers said the man, who's represented by the International Refugee Assistance Project and the American Civil Liberties Union's state chapter, voluntarily withdrew his application for admission to the United States in an interview with a Customs and Border Protection officer after arriving at Liberty International Airport on Monday.
The man's lawyers argued the application withdrawal was involuntary and said he was held without a lawyer for 36 hours.
The court ruling on Wednesday came hours after a bipartisan group of senators introduced a measure to provide 2,500 more visas for the program.
"We simply cannot win this war without the assistance of the Afghan people who put their lives on the line to help American troops and diplomats serving in harm's way," Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, said in a statement. "Unfortunately in recent years, Congress has reneged on the promise we made to protect these brave individuals by failing to authorize the appropriate number of Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan translators and interpreters."
The war in Afghanistan, the United States' longest war, began in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Afghan soldiers and police have been suffering heavy casualties in their fight against a resilient Taliban insurgency, while U.S. forces continue to hunt down al-Qaida and Islamic State militants.
The man's lawyers argued that his service to the U.S. military puts his life at risk in Afghanistan. But the government said in a court filing the man "explicitly stated that he has no fear of returning to Afghanistan."
A ruling on the man's case is expected to be expedited, but it's unclear when it will happen. The case is similar to one in Los Angeles, where two Afghan parents were detained with their three young children and were threatened with deportation before a judge granted a temporary restraining order.
More than 13,000 Afghans and their immediate family members have been waiting to get special immigrant visas for aiding the U.S. mission, the U.S. Department of State has said.
Congress approved 1,500 more visas in December and extended the program until the end of 2020, but advocates for those who have helped the U.S. military say the number is woefully inadequate.
Applicants for the visas must go through background checks.