After escaping Afghanistan to evade torture and execution from the Taliban for helping the United States, Afghan soldier Abdul Wasi Safi was arrested in September 2022 at the U.S.-Mexico border while attempting to seek asylum in the United States.
As Wasi’s physical health began to deteriorate, a legal team led by Texas criminal defense attorney Zachary Fertitta was brought in to help Wasi get the criminal charges dropped. Fertitta, who previously worked with Jackson Walker partner Erica Benites Giese at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Houston, brought Erica on to assist with the case and to lead the criminal case in Del Rio.
Drawing on her experience as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Erica secured additional time to meet with and negotiate with the government. As a result of her and the team’s outstanding advocacy, the Western District of Texas – Del Rio Division on January 23, 2023, dismissed the charges against Wasi. He was released from custody early yesterday morning.
“If removed from the United States and returned to Afghanistan, Abdul Wasi Safi would face certain death. His life was and is still in the balance,” Erica stated. “Our immediate goal was to secure a dismissal of the criminal charges and give him an opportunity for a fresh start in this country, but our secondary goal was to secure his release from custody so he could be reunited with his brother. Our next step is to secure asylum and save him from torture and execution by the Taliban. Thanks to the support of so many, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, he has a chance at freedom.”
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee announces that all government orders against Abdul Wasi Safi have been lifted and he will be freed. pic.twitter.com/3DsHassWLw
— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) January 25, 2023
A press conference will be held in Houston on Friday, January 27, 2023.
For more information about the case, view the following articles published by media outlets around the nation:
- Afghan soldier seeking asylum meets with U.S. government | The Texas Tribune
- Afghan soldier jailed in Texas for crossing border should receive presidential pardon, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee says (expressnews.com)
- Feds drop charges against Afghan soldier trying to claim asylum in Texas | The Texas Tribune
- Afghan soldier seeks asylum after arrest at US-Mexico border | AP News
- Abdul Wasi Safi: US veterans groups call on Biden for help in Afghan soldier’s asylum case | CNN Politics
- Criminal charge dropped against former Afghan soldier detained after crossing US border | Stars and Stripes
Investigations & White Collar Defense Chair Erica Benites Giese handles civil and criminal white collar investigation and litigation matters, healthcare fraud matters, government contract fraud inquiries, bank and wire fraud investigations, and immigration worksite enforcement actions. She also advises and advocates for individual and corporate victims of fraud. Since 2019, Scene in S.A. has recognized Erica as one of the “Best S.A. Lawyers” in the area of criminal defense. She was also named to among the Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America in 2022 in the area of White Collar and Investigations.
Outside of Jackson Walker, Erica serves as a member of the U.S. District Court Admissions Committee, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the American Bar Association’s Women’s White Collar Defense Section, and President of the Federal Bar Association’s San Antonio Chapter.