Responding to the Afghan Crisis

In summer 2021, as the United States began withdrawing from Afghanistan, the fall of the Afghan government and Taliban takeover became inevitable. Recognizing the vast legal needs that would result, Latham began ramping up its pro bono efforts to serve those most directly affected, including individuals on the ground in Afghanistan and several thousand Afghan asylees arriving in the United States.

We developed a holistic, coordinated response by leveraging the firm’s immigration practice and building on long-standing relationships with legal services partner organizations, including Human Rights First, KIND, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Casa Cornelia Law Center, Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR) and Hogar Immigrant Services. All told, our response to the crisis in Afghanistan has involved lawyers from 17 Latham offices.

Working with IRAP, we launched a large-scale effort to provide urgent legal support to more than 80 individuals in Afghanistan who were eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) as a result of their service alongside US troops. Many had provided indispensable linguistic, cultural, and geographic knowledge at great personal risk. We devised a project to tackle the most complex aspect of the SIV to ensure our clients were not denied a legal pathway to emigrate.

Once individuals began arriving in the US, we committed to taking on 60 full-scope asylum matters for unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable clients and filed 28 humanitarian parole applications to preserve family unity.

“We are very proud and grateful for the partnership we have with Latham & Watkins. The firm’s assistance allowed us to help hundreds more Afghan refugees.”

Shala Gafary, Managing Attorney, Project: Afghan Legal Assistance, Human Rights First

One year on from the withdrawal, we recognized that there were still significant gaps in the legal services for Afghan evacuees in the US. In response, we launched a project devoted to completing applications for permanent residence for more than 100 Afghan clients. This large-scale effort, undertaken in partnership with Human Rights First, was completed with support from over 500 Latham colleagues — including our 304 summer associates — who collectively provided more than 7,000 hours of free legal services in just 10 weeks.

“We are very proud and grateful for the partnership we have with Latham & Watkins,” said Shala Gafary, Managing Attorney, Project: Afghan Legal Assistance at Human Rights First. “The firm’s assistance allowed us to help hundreds more Afghan refugees.”

Even as the crisis fades from the headlines, we remain galvanized to respond to requests for help from Afghan clients and continue to take on SIV and asylum matters for those seeking safety outside of Afghanistan. Lawyers in our New York and Washington, D.C. offices, for example, took on 30 new asylum matters, while colleagues in San Diego and Orange County teamed up on seven matters. In addition, our Houston and Austin offices are collaborating on six new cases for Afghan asylum seekers.

While our clients have sought asylum in the US for varied reasons — some as advocates for women’s rights, some as members of religious and ethnic minorities, and others who have worked on behalf of the federal government or military — all share a real and credible fear of prosecution, punishment, and incarceration under the Taliban’s harsh regime.

“Our immigration practice is among the firm’s most long-standing. We are proud to represent these and other clients seeking new lives free from fear,” said Laura Atkinson-Hope, Latham’s Public Service Counsel and Director of Global Pro Bono.

Responding to the Crisis in Afghanistan