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Afghan interpreter wanted by Taliban granted asylum in Arizona

Zabi worked with the U.S. Marines from 2010 to 2014 as an interpreter. In August 2021, his work with the Marines made him a target of the Taliban.

TUCSON, Ariz. — An interpreter who worked alongside the Marines in Afghanistan for years is now officially an asylee in the United States. 

Zabi, who was an Afghan interpreter who fled the Middle East as a refugee, has been waiting to be granted asylum for more than two years. 

Zabi worked with the U.S. Marines from 2010 to 2014 as an interpreter. In August 2021, his work with the Marines made him a target of the Taliban. 

‘Now, it’s like life or death’

Help came for Zabi from Darius Amiri, immigration chair at Rose Law Group. The two connected through Amiri’s high school friend Corey Mazza, a U.S. Marine, years ago. 

“I had to get back from Afghanistan. I had to get out,” Zabi said. 

Amiri previously worked to help Zabi with a special visa that never got approved. 

“When we did start pulling our troops out, it became imperative that, ‘Hey, now it’s not just this visa that he needs. Now, it’s like life or death.’,” Amiri said.

RELATED: The war is over: Last US troops leave Afghanistan

Zabi made it to Arizona in the fall of 2021, and Amiri helped get the asylum process started in August 2022. 

“It’s been a long journey,” Amiri said. The approval finally came in April 2024. 

“The first days of small Eid, I got my approval, which was like double happiness,” Zabi said. 

When the news came across Amiri’s desk, he immediately reached out to Zabi and Mazza.  

“I thought ‘He’s joking around with me’ because we do joke around sometimes,” Zabi said. “When he sent me the photo I was like, ‘No he’s serious.'”

‘You feel safe’

It’s now happiness and safety Zabi said he feels with being officially an asylee. 

“You feel safe. You feel yourself as part of United States, part of society,” Zabi said. 

Amiri, who’s worked as an immigration attorney for his entire career, said helping with Zabi’s case is a career highlight. 

“We’re going to be friends for life,” Amiri said. “Our country could use a million more Zabi’s.” 

Still, the process did take two and a half years. 

“This is all with guidance from the Biden Administration that these cases should be treated as a priority. So outside of the Afghan situation, there’s people who are waiting a lot longer,” Amiri said. 

Amiri says beyond Zabi, they tried to help more people stuck in Afghanistan.

“There are people who sacrificed and who made themselves vulnerable by helping us, and we shouldn’t turn our backs on them or forget about them just because some time has gone by,” Amiri said. “Our government needs to do everything it can to help people who served, who interpreted, who sacrificed for us while we were in Afghanistan, get out and be safe.” 

Zabi lives in Tucson and now works with Lutheran Social Services to help other refugees while he waits for the opportunity to apply for a green card. That can happen within 365 days of his asylum grant. Five years after that, he then can become a U.S. Citizen. 

“I would love to join U.S. Marines,” Zabi said. 

“You can make the argument that our system, our government, abandoned him after everything he did for them, and the fact that he wants to now get legalized, become a citizen and go back and serve more, just tells you everything you need to know about the guy,” Amiri said. 

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