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Austin's Afghan Community met in front of the Texas Capitol with signs and speeches to share. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Chanting "we want our family here now" and holding signs that read "#SaveAfghanWomen" or "#SanctionPakistan," dozens of Afghan Austinites gathered in front of the Texas Capitol to make a plea to save their families and raise local awareness for the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Men, women and children waving Afghanistan flags met in front of the Capitol on W. 11th Street and Congress Ave. Tuesday at 4:45 p.m.

Many of the protesters served alongside the U.S. Military, often as translators, including protest attendee Maverick, who declined to give his real name for the safety of his relatives.

Maverick, the name that was written on his uniform, said he hasn't been able to speak to any of his eight immediate family members stuck in Kabul for four days as the government-run phone services are collapsing.

"I've been getting gray hairs, I'm getting eyebags. I've never had this much stress on me before," Maverick said. "My immediate family is at great risk—they're stranded there."

Maverick is a U.S. citizen and can file visa petitions for his family but since they are on a first-come-first-serve basis, the process can take years to complete. Even if he filed on behalf of his family, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is shut down, so they couldn't complete the process.

After serving with the army for four years, Maverick said his family will be put in danger due to his service. He thinks Afghan families of servicemen need to be evacuated. Others at the protest reflected his thoughts, carrying signs that read "We helped you! You help us! Save our families!"

"God forbid if there's anything that bad happened here in America, I will be the first one to go help because we received help and we're really grateful for the help that the U.S. provided," Maverick said. "I was hoping that maybe they would get evacuated. If it was peaceable, if it was safe, I would go through every step (but) there's like zero hope right now."

The group also hoped to clear up any fears from the public—Maverick said he's heard people say they're worried about sleeper cells for the Taliban coming in as evacuations continue.

"The U.S. government can vet them however they want—as long as they get to safety, vetting is not a problem," Maverick said. "We helped the troops, we saved their lives and now we want something in return, which is just to save our family."

Before the end of September, 574 Afghan refugees will be resettled in Texas, of which Austin will receive 185. The number could increase, as President Joe Biden told CBS News last week that more than 50,000 Afghan allies were still in need of evacuation.


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