09/17/20 International Students and Scholars Office Stock Photos

The Schlemann Hall of Student Services houses Purdue's International Students and Scholars.

Despite being in landlocked Indiana, things that happen overseas can affect students at Purdue.

Purdue has a considerable international population, as of 2020, Purdue hosted 8,158 international students, according to the fall report of international enrollment from Purdue’s International Students and Scholars website.

When the United States pulled out of Afghanistan about a year ago and the Taliban took over the country, Purdue connections were already there.

One such Purdue graduate student, H, tells his story, but he said he prefers to be unnamed because of dangers from the Taliban and immigration law in the United States.

H received his master’s degree in agricultural economics from Purdue in spring 2021 after coming to West Lafayette in 2019. He had plans to begin studying for his doctorate this fall.

H went back to Afghanistan in May 2021, just a few months before the United States withdrew troops.

He was able to negotiate with Purdue to allow him to come back and start research for his doctorate a little early, but his family remains in Afghanistan.

“It’s all mostly the mental situation that is like ‘My family is still there and in that environment,’” he said.

H had help with the Lafayette Urban Ministry’s immigration clinic to find a more permanent way for him to stay here and also help his family back in Afghanistan.

“I’m working with LUM and trying to figure out a way to get my family out of there,” H said. “So right now, the only feasible option is to seek asylum and get permanent residency to which eventually I’d be able to get my family out.”

He said it is not feasible to go another route for his family to leave Afghanistan because other routes would take two years, and his family would need to flee to another country before then.

H was referred to P1, or priority one, which is a status for people to come to the United States, but that process can take 18 months to two years.

On Aug. 26, 2021, there was an attack on an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The airport was being used largely for evacuation, but the suicide bomber caused a disturbance in the evacuation process. The bomb killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. military officials.

After that attack, H said it was much harder to get to the airport and evacuate.

When asked what he’s most worried about, H simply said, “My family’s situation there.”

He said the Taliban looks for people who have worked with any NATO force whether it be in a civilian or military capacity or with the former government.

“My family also had a background of working with the government,” H said, “and my father worked with foreign NGOs, including the Norwegian church aid, so that makes it a tough situation for them if they ever identify who they are or where they worked.”

H’s family was, understandably, nervous about having their history revealed to the Taliban during their search of Kabul, where H said there are regular searches. Just days after he left, his family’s house was searched.

“What we did is get rid of every document like anything that was important,” H said. “We’ve uploaded it online and got rid of it so that we can’t be identified through those documents, but there is always a chance that somebody somewhere will know.”

H left Afghanistan in January, stayed in the United Arab Emirates for a short while and was able to come back to the United States in February. When he arrived, he started research at Purdue in preparation for his doctoral courses starting in August.

H said the Taliban was monitoring the airport for people headed to America, like him.

“I was stopped. I was asked, but I just showed them the documents in Arabic and everything and said, I’m going to UAE to visit family,” he said. “And yeah, that was like the biggest fear, like if they figure out where I’m going, they’ll probably not let me.”

Even with the ability to come here, it was not easy.

“The process of getting here itself is very tedious,” he said. “There’s so much paperwork, and also the process of resettlement back here in the United States (is a challenge).”

The future of Afghans being able to travel here is not very clear either, H said.

“They have a TPS (temporary protected status) but still their situations (are) in limbo,” H said. “So they will apply for TPS but then they don’t know about the future, about TPS itself, or how long it will be extended.”

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