Veterans Praise Inclusion of Additional Visas for Afghan Allies in Spending Bill
Washington, D.C.—Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First, today praised the inclusion of 2,500 additional visas for allies that served alongside the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in Congress’s new omnibus spending bill. The measure in yesterday’s compromise funding bill comes less than a week after the group met with members of Congress to advocate on behalf of Afghan men and women whose lives are at risk because of their service to the United States. The additional visas will support the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program through the rest of the year.
“Many of the brave Afghans that served alongside us are in danger because of their sacrifices. By including these visas, we have honored our word as a nation,” said Veterans for American Ideals founder Scott Cooper. “This is the right move for our Afghan partners, the right move for our men and women in uniform, and the right move for our nation.”
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 was designed to provide 7,500 visas over five years. Extensions were passed in 2014 and 2015 that made seven thousand more visas available. In December President Obama signed the defense authorization that extended the Afghan SIV program for an additional four years, but three months later the U.S. embassy in Kabul announced it had suspended scheduling visa interviews because only 1,437 visas remained, barely enough to cover the number of applicants in the final stages of the application process.
Last week 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), which would have provided an emergency allocation of 2,500 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program.
The additional visas will be a vital lifeline to the more than 15,000 Afghans that are already in the SIV application process.
“Moving forward, we need to ensure that each and every Afghan who put their life on the line to aid the U.S. mission is protected. We need to send the message that the United States stands by its friends,” added Cooper. “Every time we edge closer to letting the SIV program expire, our partners fear they will be abandoned.”