May 20, 2019

Moulton, Blumenauer, Kinzinger, Stivers Introduce Bill to Authorize Special Immigrant Visas to Afghan Translators

Washington, DC – Last week, Congressmen Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Seth Moulton (D-MA) introduced H.R. 2796, the Afghan Allies and Protection Act, which would authorize 4,000 new Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and require the State Department to report to Congress on the obstacles to protecting Iraqi and Afghan allies, and suggestions for improving the program.

In recent years, the SIV applicant backlog has continued to grow while Congress has struggled to allot enough visas to bring our allies to safety in the United States. While the recent Fiscal Year 2019 omnibus spending bill authorized 3,500 SIVs, the backlog remains at nearly 20,000 Afghans. Worse, the processing times for existing applications has slowed dramatically, forcing many to wait for years while living in fear of being targeted. Due to these issues and others facing the program, SIV arrivals have fallen by more than half over the last fiscal year.

Ahead of their reintroduction of the Afghan Allies Protection Act, the Congressmen held a press conference with a SIV recipient and a veteran who worked together on the battlefield. Following their press conference, the legislation was introduced in the House and the four Congressman released these statements:

“Translators saved American lives and risked their own for the freedoms that they saw in our country and so desperately wanted to bring theirs,” Rep. Moulton said. “They deserve our country’s gratitude, new opportunities, and most of all the safety that only comes from living within our borders. It’s up to Congress to make it happen by approving these visas.”

“It has been said, that ‘to be a friend is fatal.’ Our Afghan allies put this fact aside in service to our courageous military and our country,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “In return, we promised them safety and a new life in the United States. We must keep our promise to our allies. This legislation is imperative to the lives of these translators, the safety of our troops abroad, and our international standing of being true to our word.”

“For years, we have fought for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to ensure protections for those who risked their lives to protect American men and women. Because of their service to the U.S., these individuals and their families have been targeted by the Taliban and terror groups,” said Rep. Kinzinger. “This legislation is important to our allies and our code of honor. We made a promise to the men and women who served with us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no one behind.”

“During my time deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I worked with many foreign allies who were critical to the success of our mission, and who put their lives and the lives of their families on the line to serve alongside us,” Rep. Stivers said. “They did not turn their backs on us, and we cannot turn our backs on them. This bill is not about politics, it is just the right thing to do.”

With broad bipartisan support, Congress created the Afghan SIV program to bring to safety brave men and women who risked their lives to help the U.S. mission on the ground in Afghanistan, which has exposed them to direct threats, jeopardizing their safety and that of their loved ones.