Today, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to reform the Iraq and Afghanistan Special Immigrant Visa programs (SIV). The amendment, which enhances the SIV programs by providing efficiency, transparency, accuracy, and oversight mechanisms passed by a vote of 420-3
The SIV programs, available to Iraqis and Afghans facing an ongoing serious threat as a result of their employment on behalf of America expires at the end of this Fiscal Year for Iraq and in Fiscal Year 2014 for Afghanistan.
"Backlog and delay means not just weeks or months, but years, for those who risked their lives to help the U.S. mission living in fear and hiding, knowing they or their families could be killed at any moment," said Blumenauer. "We must keep our commitment to provide refuge to the brave Iraqi and Afghan men and women who willingly put their lives on the line and served shoulder-to-shoulder with our service members in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom."
Though Fiscal Year 2012, only 22% of the available Iraqi SIVs had been issued, and only 12% for Afghanistan, and, according to the Washington Post, over 5,000 documentarily complete Afghan SIV applications remained in a backlog. If the program expires, thousands of individuals who relied on the promise of the US when they decided to assist the military would remain in peril.
"While I am pleased that there is a partial extension of the SIV included in the House NDAA, there is an opportunity for further, bipartisan reform," continued Blumenauer. "I hope this amendment signals a strong commitment from the House for comprehensive extension and reform that can be taken up with the Senate in conference."
Representative Blumenauer was joined in introducing the amendment by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), and Steve Stivers (OH-15), all three of whom served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.