Bipartisan Bill Would Provide More Visas for At-Risk Afghan Allies
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today applauded the bipartisan effort of Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John McCain (R-AZ), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to protect Afghan allies seeking refuge in the Unites States. The senators' action came in the form of an amendment to the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, providing 2,500 additional visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Seth Moulton (D-MA) are expected to release a version of the amendment in the House of Representatives later today.
Human Rights First urges swift passage of the amendments and calls on Congress to ensure continued protection of wartime allies now in danger because of their service in support of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
“These amendments reaffirm of our commitment to the brave men and women who stood by the side of U.S. armed forces in the face of great personal risk,” said Human Rights First’s Scott Cooper, founder of Veterans for American Ideals. “These amendments are vital steps towards not only saving lives, but maintaining our integrity as a nation. Congress needs to pass this legislation now.”
Last week Human Rights First expressed alarm over news that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul ceased scheduling interviews for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The program, which provides visas to Afghans who worked as translators or interpreters, and were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Afghanistan, is a vital pipeline to safety for individuals who are threatened because of their work in support of the U.S. mission.
In 2009, Congress passed the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009. The visas allotted in the act allowed wartime allies in Afghanistan to resettle in the United States. The Afghan program was designed to provide 7,500 visas over five years. Extensions were passed in 2014 and 2015 that made seven thousand more visas available, but as of early October 2016, only 1,632 visas remained. In December, when President Obama signed the defense authorization that reauthorized the Afghan SIV program for an additional four years, a mere 1,500 new visas were added. Three months later those visas are nearly gone with more than ten thousand applications pending.
“We made a promise as a nation to protect those that stood by us,” added Cooper. “They endangered themselves because they took us at our word, if we lose that trust we lose hope in ever having similar allies in the future. Congress needs to act, not just for these lives, but for our national security.”
For more information or to speak with Cooper, contact Chris Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.