July 07, 2016

U.S. News & World Report: Thousands of Afghan Interpreters Wait for Visas as Congress Squabbles

By: Katherine Lonsdorf and Patrick Martin

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Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine and vocal advocate for Afghan interpreters, introduced an amendment to the NDAA specifically aimed at continuing and expanding the SIV program.

"The very least we can do is offer them a chance to stay alive, to keep living, rather than abandoning them to the same enemies they united with us to destroy," Moulton said in an address on the House floor on May 18 about the proposed amendment.

Peter Billerbeck, Moulton's defense and foreign policy adviser, has championed the program for the past three years. He has noticed a change in the political conversation surrounding the program recently, from one of general support to opposition.

"It used to be just a question of how many things would be included or renewed. It wasn't a question of if the program itself would be renewed," Billerbeck said in a phone interview.

Billerbeck said two main objections often emerge in the debate over the SIV program. One is the cost, which the Congressional

Budget Office estimates at $446 million over the next decade, if the program were expanded to fully fund Moulton's amendment. "The other is a broader anti-immigrant, anti-refugee sentiment that doesn't view the sacrifices that these folks have made as uniquely valuable or uniquely endangering," Billerbeck said.

While the House voted to keep the SIV program in May, the Senate did not include an extension of the visa program for interpreters in its version of the defense bill passed in June.

You can read the full article here.