Working as a translator for U.S. forces in Afghanistan carried a heavy price for Mohammad Usafi. He's faced threats on his life and suffered through the murder of his father and the kidnapping of his brother. And despite the mortal danger to himself and his family, it took 3 1/2 years for Usafi to be approved for the Special Immigrant Visa that allowed him to seek refuge in America.
Today Usafi is living safely in the United States, as are his mother and siblings. On Tuesday night he attended President Obama's State of the Union address as the guest of Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who is advocating to improve the system for approving visas for translators who risk their lives to aid Americans.
Usafi and Swalwell spoke with HuffPost Live's Ricky Camilleri on Tuesday, just hours before the State of the Union, and Usafi shared his painful story, which began when his translation work took him from working with British forces to working with the U.S. Marines in 2009.
"I was in a place where there was no Internet connection or phone connection, so in that time, the Taliban ... were giving a lot of threats to my family," Usafi said. "In the same time, they also took my dad and they killed him, and I still didn't know about all these situations."
The translator added that he applied for the visa solely out of safety concerns and emphasized that the potential for one had no bearing on his choice to take a job with American forces:
When I started working as an interpreter, I didn't start working as an interpreter because of getting here to the United States. I started working because of helping and supporting the U.S. troops. And in the meantime, I was trying to help my country, which was destroyed for 30, 40 years, and nobody really came into that country, and that was a good opportunity for our country, Afghanistan, that American troops came into Afghanistan to give us freedom.
Although Usafi's family is finally safe in the United States, others have not been so lucky. Usafi said he has a friend who applied for a visa in 2008 and still has not been approved.
"He's still waiting. He's getting threats, he's getting shot. He actually contacted me the other day [and said] that he got lucky again and his car got shot, but he's still alive," Usafi said. "But there's many people in that situation who have been waiting in this case."
Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!