Afghan citizens who helped coalition forces as interpreters have been eligible to receive visas to the U.S. through the special immigrant visa (SIV) program since it was established in 2008.
However, a lack of visas caused the interview process for Afghan interpreters to be frozen by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in March. The effort to provide 2,500 more visas to Afghans who provided “at least one year of faithful and valuable service” in support of U.S. government operations is supported by both parties in the newest compromise spending bill.
Both Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Air Force pilot, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the Keeping Our Promise to Our Afghan Allies Act in March.
“We need to bring our faithful allies to safety faster and more effectively, and today is a major step forward in support of that effort,” stated Blumenauer, adding, “We are going to continue fighting to keep this program alive, no matter the hurdle. This is the bare minimum we can do for those who risked their lives, and the lives of their families, to help our country.”
Kinzinger vowed to keep his country’s promise to the Afghans “who served alongside us on the battlefield… to leave no man behind.”
Pleased to see more visas included in the budget, Kinzinger called it “a good step in the right direction to show our support for those allies who have risked their lives to advance the cause of freedom and protect the United States.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) commented on how important those Afghan interpreters are in the war effort. He said, “While this is an important development, it is critical that Congress regularly authorizes visas and appropriates the funding needed to ensure the continuation of this vital program for both Afghan and Iraqi interpreters. Doing so will send a clear message that America will uphold our commitment to those – who at great personal risk – stand with us in the fight against terror.”
Praising the inclusion of the visas in the new spending bill, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said, “Allowing this program to lapse would send the message to our allies in Afghanistan that the United States has abandoned them. It’s both a moral and practical imperative that Congress approve additional visas.”
She added, “The lives of Afghan interpreters and support staff literally hang in the balance.”
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