A ragtag band of Afghans managed to escape the country’s war through high seas — and they landed in America.
The 86 people at the border were part of an underground migration movement that spawned in the war zone, and they traveled from Pakistan to Turkey, where they received a ride to the United States, the Irish Times reported.
The group was supposed to undergo background checks but they entered the country as undocumented immigrants, officials told the Times.
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Four of the immigrants are members of the Afghan national wrestling team, according to a leaked Coast Guard document.
The immigration officials on board the Coast Guard cutters alerted the U.S. Embassy in the country, where Afghan officials met the team at Tijuana, Mexico’s border crossing. The 15-person team included wrestlers, five officials and 11 relatives and friends, the Times reported.
The American embassy contacted Customs and Border Protection to immediately turn the migrants over to the U.S. Military’s Defense Assistance Compact (DAC), a program run by the Department of Defense to bring the remnants of the Afghan Civilian Protection Unit (ACPU) to the U.S. in the 1980s, the Times reported.
According to the DOD, DAC is intended for the return of former service members and national service members who are armed forces veterans. But, according to the Times, individuals involved in a previous exodus of Afghan officials out of the country in 2011 faced similar treatment.
Those individuals made a harrowing crossing across the Mediterranean. Once settled in the U.S., some raised awareness on the whereabouts of the ex-Afghan officials who originally left the country.
The Times reported that the program even moved African refugees from refugee camps in Kenya to the U.S. in the 1960s and used the same process to bring Afghan refugees here a decade ago.