‘It is very difficult’: Refugee fights to stay in US while coping with wife’s death

CHARLOTTE — A man already coping with his wife’s tragic death is facing a new battle: A fight to keep his home in the United States.

Ahmad Rasoul has been juggling a lot since he came to the U.S. from Afghanistan more than a year ago. He’s raising his three kids alone after his young wife, Nabila, died earlier this year. She was hit and killed by a drunk driver on East W.T. Harris Boulevard in north Charlotte.

“Actually, it is very difficult because I am alone here and I have three kids -- raising three kids -- and for one person it’s difficult,” Ahmad Rasoul told Channel 9′s Anthony Kustura.

It’s a hardship and a loss that would be difficult for any family to endure, but it’s especially grueling as Rasoul fights for asylum in the United States. He’s currently here under what’s called temporary Humanitarian Parole, which allows refugees to live and work in the U.S. with certain provisions.

“When we don’t have any documentation, we can’t go out of America and we are here living like we’re in a prison,” Rasoul said.

Rasoul says initially, federal agents from Washington D.C. came to the Queen City. They were conducting interviews to help refugees achieve asylum status. He says that came to an end over the summer, in turn forcing countless families to travel to the nation’s capital themselves to petition to stay.

For Rasoul, going to the capital means taking time off from work, going without pay, covering travel expenses to get to D.C. because he’s not eligible to drive and finding childcare for his three kids since children aren’t allowed in the interviews.

Fortunately, mentors Sam and Carol Hatcher stepped in to help. The couple footed the hundreds of dollars in costs for Rasoul and provided the childcare he needed. The hatchers already offered up a rental house for Rasoul to stay in, free of charge.

Countless others don’t have that kind of support.

“The process so far, is it what you thought it would look like when you first signed up to help them?” Kustura asked.

”Absolutely not,” Sam Hatcher replied. “It’s really unreasonable to think these people should try to do this without any help. And it could have been avoided.”

There’s a lot on the line. If a refugee like Rasoul gets asylum, they’re then able to apply for permanent residence and then eventually, citizenship. But the humanitarian parole is set to expire next august.

Without a long-term plan to stay, Hatcher says refugees may be sent back to war-torn Afghanistan. He said there was already a target on Rasoul’s back for speaking out against the Taliban publicly before he escaped.

“If he is deported, there is a very strong chance he will not survive it over there,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher believes the next steps are critical to ensure that doesn’t happen, But he said the U.S. needs a better plan to protect the people who’ve come here seeking solace and peace.

“You know, we keep going back to our government to fix everything. It does take the community to get beside the government and make this happen. But it also takes a government willing to be flexible and adjust as they go,” he said.

Ahmad Rasoul’s experience is just one example of countless stories Channel 9 has heard from Afghan refugees.

Pathway to citizenship

Sen. Thom Tillis said Congress needs to pass a proposed bill next legislative session that would allow refugees the chance to apply for a visa more quickly, which would put them on a path toward permanent status and citizenship.

He said it is especially important because many Afghan people helped the U.S. military.

“We have to prove and we have to continue to prove that when you help us, as many thousands of people did in Afghanistan, if things don’t go the way we had hoped, then we’re going help you,” Tillis said.

Rosoul’s brother helped the U.S. by serving alongside government officials in America.

He spent the last year trying to escape Afghanistan with his wife and four young daughters.

The brothers reunited at Charlotte Douglas International Airport last month, thanks to a nonprofit organization.

Rosoul’s brother is under a special visa for his work with the U.S. government.

However, Rasoul is worried that he and his children may have to repeat the process if they are forced to return to Afghanistan.

VIDEO: Mother of 3, who fled Afghanistan, was one of 2 women killed in northeast Charlotte crash