US agents detained an Afghan family of five with valid entry visas at Los Angeles International Airport and have been holding them for several days in California, according to legal papers filed in federal court in California by human rights lawyers.
The mother, father and their three children, including a baby, arrived at LAX for a connecting flight to Washington state, where they planned to resettle.
"Yet now, instead of gratefully welcoming Does 1-5 to the country they helped defend, the US government arrested all five family members", the petitioners state in court documents.
The couple and their children were granted Special Immigrant Visas in return for work the father performed for the US government in Afghanistan that put the family's lives at risk, the International Refugee Assistance Project said in its court filing seeking their release.
'The betrayal of this family by the USA government shocks the conscience, ' the petition said, adding the father, who was not named, was employed by the US government in Afghanistan.
ICE officials didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Attorneys representing the family say they have no idea why the government is holding the family and under what justification.
Talia Inlender, an attorney from Public Counsel, said it was "extremely unusual if not entirely unique" for someone who holds this special visa to be detained upon arrival.
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The case, Inlender said, was reminiscent of many in the aftermath of an executive order issued by the Trump administration in January, which shut down refugee admissions to the USA and put temporary holds on all admission from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Inlender told ABC News that the family was held for nearly two days without any communication and without access to attorneys after arriving at LAX. "Unfortunately they never should have been in custody in the first place".
The mother was being detained in downtown Los Angeles with her children, while the father was in a maximum-security detention facility in Orange County, California.
Inlender said an attorney was sent to meet with the mother, who is illiterate and can't speak English.
"It's been quite a dramatic day", Inlender said. The wife and children, aged 7 years, 6 years, and 8 months, were also not named. Attorneys then filed an emergency motion for a restraining order in federal court to prevent the government from transferring the family out of state.
"The past 24 hours has been reminiscent of those moments; the stonewalling and not being allowed access to clients", she said.
The news emerged on the same day as Donald Trump's re-worked travel ban was announced.
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