Veterans Call on Congress to Protect Afghan Allies
Washington, D.C.—A group of veteran organizations today urged Congress to take action to protect Afghan military allies seeking refuge in the United States. In a letter sent to the House and Senate, Veterans for American Ideals, High Ground Veterans Advocacy, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, No One Left Behind, and Vietnam Veterans of America called on members to allocate four thousand visas through the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program, for those who served alongside U.S. troops at great personal risk.
“Our military has a strong, strategic tradition of depending on local allies. While deployed, we relied on these wartime partners to complete the mission. Throughout U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan, thousands of locals have provided mission support as interpreters, translators, cultural advisors, logisticians, and as contractors for the U.S. embassy, USAID, and other agencies,” wrote the group. “Many of our wartime allies who remain in Afghanistan live in constant fear that they or their families will be targeted by insurgents. For many the SIV program is their lifeline.”
Congress has the opportunity to allocate the visas in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2019, which may be passed in the coming weeks.
In 2009 Congress passed the Afghan Allies Protection Act. The visas allotted in the act allowed wartime allies in Afghanistan to resettle in the United States. The Afghan program has consistently been amended and extended in order to provide haven to those supporting the ongoing mission in Afghanistan. In the last three years, Congress has authorized 10,500 more visas for Afghan wartime allies, either through the National Defense Authorization Act, or the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Last month Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called for an additional four thousand visas in a letter to Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL)-and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“I served alongside many brave Afghans who risked their lives for our mission there, and who have found safety here in America,” said Scott Cooper, a retired Marine Corps officer and Director of National Security Outreach at Human Rights First. “They have given much to support us, and we should keep faith with them.”