‘Honor our promises’: New bill would expand and expedite visa program for Afghan allies

‘Honor our promises’: New bill would expand and expedite visa program for Afghan allies

Two dozen bipartisan legislators have introduced a new bill that would expand and expedite the visa program for Afghans who aided U.S. military and will be at risk when our forces leave Afghanistan by September 2021. The ALLIES Act, introduced by the House’s Honoring Our Promises Working Group, would increase the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) cap by 8,000, as well as safely “remove burdensome” requirements that have slowed the application process.

“When I served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I worked closely with local translators and contractors who were critical to our safety and the success of our mission,” said Colorado Rep. Jason Crow. “They performed this service at great risk to themselves and their families, but with the understanding that the U.S. would stand by them. Now it is time for the U.S. to honor our promises and protect our Afghan partners.”

Crow’s office said that the ALLIES Act would “increase the Afghan SIV cap by an additional 8,000 visas,” as well as “remove the requirement for a ‘credible sworn statement’ regarding the threat applicants face for having worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government, since both public and clandestine reporting confirm that Afghans who have worked for the U.S. face heightened risk of retribution from the Taliban.”

The legislation comes amid escalating calls from refugee groups, veterans groups, and legislators including the Honoring Our Promises Working Group for the Biden administration to evacuate Afghan allies and their families before the scheduled withdrawal date. The group said in their letter to the administration this month that “no U.S. entity” will have the “ability or authority” to protect them after September. The New York Times reports that according to advocacy group No One Left Behind, more than 300 translators or family members have been killed since 2014.

“After examining this situation through multiple hearings, briefings, and our own offices’ research and outreach, our bipartisan working group has concluded that we must evacuate our Afghan friends and allies immediately,” the Honoring Our Promises Working Group said earlier this month, calling it “a moral failure to transfer the responsibility to protect our Afghan partners onto the shoulders of the Afghan Government. The time is now to honor our promise and evacuate Afghan SIV applicants.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was pressed during an interview with CNN last week on whether the Biden administration would be moving forward with such an evacuation. He told Dana Bash, “[e]vacation is the wrong word,” saying that the administration was working to speed up the special visa program. “We’ve added about 50 people here in Washington in the State Department to help do that,” he said. “We want to make sure that anyone who has helped us we are making good on our obligation to help them.”

The Times reports that the average wait for special visa processing is more than three years. James Miervaldis, No One Left Behind leader, told the Times that research carried out by the organization found that more than 90% of Afghan allies they reached had been subjected to at least one death threat due to their work. “They are all universally terrified,” he told the Times

Today, we remember the story of one incredible Afghan SIV dad who went through the unimaginable to protect his family. CC: @mattczeller Call on Biden to protect our Afghan allies and their families: https://t.co/xPTJG5FQjL pic.twitter.com/AyHnDNQLhT

— LIRS (@LIRSorg) June 21, 2021

The fight to save the lives of Afghan allies and their families continued as advocates also marked World Refugee Day this past Sunday, June 20. One of the speakers during an event marking the day, Rep. Ilhan Omar, said she was aided by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), one of the leading organization advocating for the safe evacuation of Afghan allies. 

“After fleeing my home country of Somalia I lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years before seeking hope and opportunity in the United States, and it was thanks to the support of LIRS that I and my family found a home in the United States,” she said according to Religion News Service. In a tweet, LIRS President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah wrote that “[w]e can evacuate and welcome our Afghan allies with dignity and compassion.”

O’Mara Vignarajah called on advocates for Afghan allies to contact the White House using this tool here. “For two decades, the U.S. Government has employed Afghan allies to serve alongside U.S. troops, diplomats, and other government employees,” the group’s site said. “These allies and their families soon became the targets of anti-American violence. They continue to be threatened, abducted, targeted, and killed for their allegiance to the U.S. and NATO mission.”

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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