Veterans Applaud Inclusion of Four Thousand Additional Visas for Afghan Allies in Compromise Spending Bill

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Washington, D.C.—Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First, praises the inclusion of four thousand additional visas for allies that served alongside the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in Congress’s new spending bill. The measure will support the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program through the rest of the fiscal year, providing a vital lifeline to many Afghans in danger because of their work aiding the U.S. mission.

"We gave our word to protect our Afghan partners. This year’s fight was not an easy one, and we faced several legislative hurdles, but we are encouraged by the allocation of these four thousand visas." said Scott Cooper, founder of Veterans for American Ideals. "It’s also a chance to reflect on the great sacrifices of Afghan interpreters and translators and the continued strife of those who remain under threat in Afghanistan. To the 10,955 Afghan applicants and 12,067 family members at some point in the application process, these additional visas are a lifeline.”

Veterans for American Ideals is grateful for the leadership of Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Seth Moulton (D-MA) on this issue, as well as the hard work of Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who shepherded the inclusion of the four thousand visas through a compromise worked out in August.

In 2009 Congress passed the Afghan Allies Protection Act, which allotted visas for Afghan wartime partners to resettle in the United States. Each year, visas need to be replenished in order to provide help allies who remain in danger. Since FY 2008, the SIV program has welcomed over 54,000 Afghans to safety.

"It is morally and strategically vital that we keep our promise to these brave Afghans. These allies and their families make great sacrifices for the United States, and at minimum, we owe them safe harbor," added Cooper. "As we continue to guard our interests around the world, America will require the support of those willing to stand with us. We must ensure the United States never leaves anyone behind.

Members of Veterans for American Ideals continue to call on Congress to take action to protect Afghan allies and advocate for a timely path to safety for Iraqis who worked alongside the U.S. military. Currently, over one hundred thousand Iraqis await processing for resettlement through the Direct Access Program (also known as a Priority 2 or P2). As with general refugee resettlement, Congress plays an important oversight role in the resettlement process.

For more information or to speak with Cooper, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.