Senate Urged to Support Expansion of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First urges members of the Senate to vote in favor of an amendment introduced today to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would continue the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and allocate another 4,000 visas in the coming year. The amendment was introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) with Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC).
“This amendment provides a critical lifeline for those who risked their lives serving Americans troops in Afghanistan,” said Human Rights First’s Scott Cooper. “If the United States is to remain a leader in protecting the persecuted around the globe, at a minimum we must provide safety for those who assisted our troops abroad.”
The SIV program allows Afghans who provided crucial support to the U.S. armed forces and other U.S. government agencies operating in Afghanistan to be eligible for visas. Many linguists, contractors, and security guards who worked with the U.S. military have come under well-documented threats from the Taliban and other groups hostile to the United States. Currently, 10,000 Afghan applicants are waiting in the SIV application backlog, and the State Department has fewer than 4,000 visas remaining—a shortfall of more than 6,000 visas. Today’s amendment grants the State Department request for 4,000 additional visas so that it can continue processing applications and issuing visas.
Human Rights First notes that failure to allocate additional visas will jeopardize current and future cooperation with Afghan and other local communities who witness the U.S. government abandon their effort to provide safe refuge for those who risked their lives to protect and serve Americans. American servicemen and women continue to rely on the vital support brave Afghans provide to their mission in Afghanistan. Their service has put their lives at risk; to deny them refuge is a disservice to our Afghan allies and a betrayal of American values.
Today’s amendment is expected to be debated the week of June 6th when the Senate takes up the 2017 NDAA.