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March 09, 2017

As Visas for Afghan Allies Run Out, Time for Congress to Act

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today expressed alarm over news that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan has ceased scheduling interviews for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The program, which provides visas to Afghans who worked as translators or interpreters, or 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.

“This is a betrayal of 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. “We need to act now to ensure America keeps its promise to those allies.”

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.

“Betraying the trust of our allies not only damages the United States' reputation as a nation that keeps its word, it damages our national security by undercutting any hopes of having such partners in future conflicts,” added Cooper. “Congress should use its power to help those that helped us.”

Human Rights First urges Congress to take immediate action to protect the United States' wartime allies by authorizing as many visas as necessary for the Afghan SIV program to ensure our allies are not left behind.

For more information or to speak with Cooper, contact Chris Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.