The Afghan man speaks only Farsi, but he wasn’t worried about representing himself in U.S. immigration court. He believed the details of his asylum claim spoke for themselves. Mohammad was a university professor, teaching human rights courses in Afghanistan before he fled for the United States. Mohammad is also Hazara, an ethnic minority long persecuted in his country, and he said he was receiving death threats from the Taliban, who reimposed their harsh interpretation of Sunni Islam after taking power in 2021. He crossed the Texas border in April 2022, surrendered to Border Patrol agents and was detained. A year later, a hearing was held via video conference. His words were translated by a court interpreter in another location, and he said he struggled to express himself – including fear for his life since he was injured in a 2016 suicide bombing. At the conclusion of the nearly three-hour hearing, the judge denied him asylum. Mohammad said he was later shocked to learn that he had waived his right to appeal the decision. “I feel alone and that the law wasn’t applied,” said Mohammad, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition that only his first name be used, over fears for the safety of his wife and children, who are still in Afghanistan. Mohammad’s case offers a rare look inside an opaque and overwhelmed immigration court system where hearings are often closed, transcripts are not available to the public and judges are under pressure to move quickly with ample discretion. Amid a major influx of migrants at the border with Mexico, the courts – with a backlog of 2 million cases — may be the most overwhelmed and least understood link in the system. AP reviewed a hearing transcript provided by Mona Iman, an attorney with Human Rights First now representing Mohammad. Iman also translated Mohammad’s comments to AP in a phone interview from Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas. The case reflects an asylum seeker who was ill-equipped to represent himself and clearly didn’t understand what was happening, according to experts who reviewed the transcript. But at least one former judge disagreed and said the ruling was fair. Now Mohammad’s attorney has won him a new hearing, before a different judge – a rare second chance for asylum cases. Also giving Iman hope is a decision this week by the Biden administration to give temporary legal status to Afghan migrants living in the country for more than a year. Iman believes he qualifies and said he will apply. But Mohammed has been in detention for about 18 months, and he fears he could remain in custody and still be considered for deportation. AP sought details and comment from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency didn’t address questions on Mohammad’s case but said noncitizens can pursue all due process and appeals and, once that’s exhausted, judges’ orders must be carried out. For his April 27 hearing, Mohammad submitted photos of his injuries from the 2016 suicide bombing that killed hundreds at a peaceful demonstration of mostly Hazaras. He also gave the court threatening letters from the Taliban and medical documents from treatment for head wounds in 2021. He said militants beat him with sticks as he left the university and shot at him but missed. In court, the government argued that Mohammad encouraged migration to the U.S. on social media, changed dates and details related to his history, and had relatives in Europe, South America and other places where he could have settled.