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New Northeast Florida task force to help Afghan evacuees with free legal service

Dozens of local attorneys will be volunteering at a clinic on Oct. 9 and 10 to help complete humanitarian petitions.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s been almost a month since the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, but some Afghan allies are still trying to flee the country.

The On Your Side team sat down with one local veteran and attorney who’s now helping those who once helped us.

"No man left behind."

It’s a military trope that Army veteran Chris Dempsey still lives by.

“I was having a lot of anxiety, a lot of emotions," Dempsey said. “Leaving behind a lot of our allies, friends and family members, folks that supported us and coalition forces overseas.”

After serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the withdrawal from the country was difficult for him to watch.

“I remember on Aug. 31, I cried. I yelled. I was upset," Dempsey explained. "But, on one morning run I got to thinking, you know, I'm an immigration attorney. And the immigration process is a part of the solution here.”

In that moment, he turned his angst into action.

Dempsey organized the Northeast Florida Afghan Response Task Force with another local attorney.

The organization will be offering free legal service to locals who are trying to help family or friends get into the United States after evacuating Afghanistan.

“We have dozens of attorneys that have volunteered to assist Afghans and their families in filling out the proper paperwork to achieve that Humanitarian Parole status," Dempsey said.

The local attorneys will be holding a clinic to help complete humanitarian petitions, which Dempsey says are the fast and effective way to get allies to safety in Jacksonville.

In fact, he says he has already helped one Afghan family of 10 with the filings, and they are on their way to Jacksonville now.

“That is just one case – one family of 1,000s, literally 10s of 1,000s," he said. "And so, I think the feeling and the motivations by folks in the United States to help run strong. Individuals just need to know what to do, how they can help.“

Dempsey added that those who petition for Humanitarian Parole are thoroughly vetted for both security and medical issues.

There is also a one year limit with parole status.

"Sometime during that year, the individuals are going to need to petition for more permanent immigration status here in the United States," he explained.

Dempsey has also been in contact with Catholic Charities of Jacksonville and Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida. He says they will both be ready to provide homes, food and clothing to Afghans they help get to Jacksonville.

The task force's clinic will be held on Oct. 9 and 10 at the University of North Florida from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you have family or friends trying to get into the United States from Afghanistan, you must email the task force at help@nefl-artf.org before going to the clinic for legal service.

If you want to help the task force the weekend of the clinic, email volunteer@nefl-artf.org.

If you want to donate to help Afghans cover the filing fees, which is $575 per petition, email donate@nefl-artf.org.