Press Release

U.S. Government Meets Class-Action Settlement Requirements for Afghan People Seeking Permanent Immigration Protection

The U.S. government has met its 2023 settlement requirements involving one of the largest asylum adjudication class action settlements in U.S. history.

After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, the U.S. government committed to expedite asylum decisions for Afghan people who were fleeing to the United States and to issue those decisions within 150 days. Despite that commitment, thousands of Afghan people were still waiting for an asylum decision well past the 150-day deadline. Many of them have spouses and children trapped in Afghanistan, where they are living under constant threat of danger. 

In April 2023, when the U.S. government fell behind on its commitment, Kirkland & Ellis and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed pro bono Ahmed v. DHS, case no. 4:23-CV-01892, to compel the U.S. government to expedite adjudication of these applications.

The plaintiffs are women's rights advocates, a healthcare worker, a teacher, a journalist, and people who worked for U.S. agencies in Afghanistan. Their complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenged the systematic failure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate the asylum applications filed by seven plaintiffs, and tens of thousands of other asylum applicants like them, within the 150-day deadline set by congress. 

The class reached a settlement with the U.S. government in September 2023, after seeking a nationwide injunction on behalf of Afghan asylum applicants who awaited a decision nearly two years after they first arrived in the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome  a U.S. operation to evacuate allies who faced threats of persecution as the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan. The settlement agreement was approved on Sept. 11 by Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

The nationwide settlement is expected to help approximately 20,000 Afghan people seeking asylum in the United States after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. It is one of the largest asylum adjudication class action settlements in U.S. history. 

Per the settlement agreement, the government was required to adjudicate 65 percent of applications received by Aug. 3, 2023, on or before Dec. 31, 2023. And at least 85 percent of those applications had to be pending beyond the 150-day deadline. On Jan. 16, 2024, per their public reporting requirements, the government represented to the Court and the public that is adjudicated 67 percent of applications received by Aug. 3, and that roughly 94 percent of those applications had been pending more than 150 days. 

"This news about the government meeting the settlement requirements is very exciting for our clients and for others who had been stuck in limbo waiting asylum," said Kirkland litigation partner Michael Williams, who led this case pro bono. "We believed in this case and that a remedy could be found that works for the government and for those who were allies to our country in Afghanistan." 

"We are glad to see asylum seekers finally being awards the relief they sought and we are encouraged by the government's compliance to date," said Keren Zwick, NIJC director of litigation. "We hope they continue to live up to their promise and that 90 percent of covered applicants have a decision by the end of April, as promised."

Additional deadlines in 2024 are forthcoming, and the settlement provides protections to the class members though October 2025.