NEWS10 speaking through an interpreter with Suneeta, a lawful, permanent resident of Albany whose four children in Kabul have been trying to take a plane away from a situation growing direr by the hour.
“I am worried for my children’s safety, because the Taliban is taking over. Everyone is running away from the Kabul city and trying to get out of the country,” said Suneeta, “but they are unsupervised kids by themselves all alone in an apartment, and are really scared and afraid because of Taliban coming in. They’ve heard the horror stories of them taking girls, or taking people whose families used to work with the U.S.”
Suneeta’s last name and the name of her children, aged 7 to 17, are not being mentioned due to safety concerns. “I am very worried,” she says. “I didn’t sleep all night. I was up all night talking with them.”
Typically, once children have been approved for “humanitarian parole”—which Suneeta’s kids currently have—they next go for an interview at the embassy. There, they’d also get visas in their passports, enabling them to take a commercial flight bound for New York. However, the embassy isn’t doing interviews or visa services right now, so the search is on to find another way to bring Suneeta’s children to the U.S.
Suneeta’s husband, the father of her children, worked with the U.S. military as an interpreter and team leader with the security forces at Camp Eggers. He disappeared while Suneeta was pregnant with her fourth child. He has not been heard from since 2013, and is presumed to be dead. It is believed that he was taken by the Taliban due to his work with the U.S. military.
“After Suneeta’s husband’s disappearance, she fled to Pakistan with her children. She and her children were given refugee status by UNHCR. Some time later, one of Suneeta’s brothers-in-law came to visit them and was playing with the children outside. Suneeta realized that he had kidnapped the children from her and had taken them to her husband’s family. In Afghanistan, women do not have custody rights to their children if the father passes away; it is common practice that the children are passed to the father’s family.”U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
The children are now living alone in an apartment in Afghanistan. Suneeta worries they will be seen by the Taliban as targets because of their father’s status as a U.S. interpreter.
Sara Lowry, staff attorney at U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), has been working on cases for Suneeta and her children since 2018. “Hers is one of tens of thousands of stories. We have a very large SIV [Special Immigrant Visas] population in the Capital District,” she says.
Lowry describes being “attached at the hip” to Suneeta, who has been spending the past few years working with her at USCRI on getting her children back.
“It would be like a dream for me,” said Suneeta, about how she’d feel to have her kids with her in America.