Senate Defense Authorization Provision Expands Visas for Afghan Allies
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the inclusion of a provision in the 2018 Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would add 4,000 visas for Afghan wartime allies.
“It is critical for our wartime efforts and the safety of the troops that we honor our commitment to the brave Afghans who risked their lives alongside Americans,” said Human Rights First’s Scott Cooper, founder of Veterans for American Ideals.
Human Rights First, along with its Veterans for American Ideals project, has long-advocated for Congress to continue keep faith with our Afghan allies in danger because of their service in support of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, started in 2009, was designed to provide 7,500 visas over five years. The program has consistently been in jeopardy.
In March 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul announced that it had stopped taking SIV interviews altogether. The new visas authorized by Congress were all but gone. Veterans for American Ideals, in partnership with fellow veteran organizations, called on Congress to take immediate action to protect Afghan allies. The call came in a letter urging for the swift passage of the Keeping Our Promise to Our Afghan Allies Act, a bill spearheaded by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John McCain (R-AZ), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) which would have provided an emergency allocation of 2,500 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Fortunately, 2,500 visas were included in the May 2017 omnibus spending bill that Congress passed. Those visas will likely only fulfill the needs for this year. Adding 4,000 more will allow the program to continue uninterrupted.
“Our troops continue to fight in Afghanistan, and those brave Afghans are out there shoulder to shoulder with us. They serve as the eyes and ears of our own troops. Keeping faith with them is as much a matter of American national morality as it is American national security,” said Cooper.