NDAA Provision Extends the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program, More Visas Needed
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomed provisions in the final version of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would reauthorize the Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) program for four years, and called upon Congress to significantly increase the number of visas available for key wartime allies seeking protection in the United States. The NDAA, which includes a modest increase of 1,500 SIVs, will be voted on by Congress in the coming days.
“While we are encouraged by the reauthorization of the Afghan SIV program and visa increase included in the final NDAA bill, 1,500 visas is simply insufficient,” said Human Rights First’s Scott Cooper. “American servicemembers cannot complete their mission without the translators, engineers, security guards, embassy clerks, logisticians, cultural advisors, and soldiers who have served with and risked their lives alongside them. Thousands of these men and women and their families now face grave threats for working to advance U.S. interests. We cannot turn our back on them now.”
Human Rights First notes that following the proposed increase of 1,500 special immigrant visas there will continue to be an alarming shortfall of more than 4,000 visas for qualified applicants—a number that will continue to grow as long as the U.S. military is engaged in Afghanistan. According the State Department, approximately 7,827 men and women had applications in process for protection under the Afghan SIV program as of July of this year. As of mid-September, there were only 1,962 visas remaining.
This week, members of Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First, are convening in Washington to urge Congress and the administration to take action to ensure that all eligible SIV applicants will have access to protection for themselves and their families. Veterans for American Ideals is a nonpartisan group of veterans who share a belief that America is strongest and most secure when its policies and actions match its ideals.
Earlier this year a group of veterans and veteran organizations, including Medal of Honor recipients, former chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff, and Human Rights First’s Veterans for American Ideals, wrote a letter urging Congress to take action to honor the United States’ obligation to the many Afghan personnel, including interpreters and translators, who served alongside U.S. troops at great personal risk.
The Continuing Resolution of the Congressional budget is set to expire on December 9th. As Congress begins negotiations on appropriations spending for FY17, Human Rights First urges Congress to include the allocation of at least 4,000 additional special immigrant visas in any new omnibus spending bill or continuing resolution.
“Congress must do more to ensure America keeps its promise to our key allies. We urge Congress to work through the appropriations process to secure the additional visas needed to allow all qualified applicants to be granted safety,” added Cooper.