Continuing a bipartisan effort to honor the service of civilians assisting the U.S. mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and John McCain (R-AZ) and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) introduced the bipartisan Afghan Allies Protection Extension Act. The legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Shaheen, McCain, Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Rob Portman (R-OH,), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), David Reichart (R-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA), and Steve Stivers (R-OH), will extend and reform the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghan civilians who risked their lives working with the U.S. government, American media and non-profit organizations.
The SIV Afghanistan program, which is set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, provides visas to Afghans who have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result. The bipartisan Afghan Allies Protection Extension Act introduced Wednesday night would extend the SIV program for Afghanistan for another fiscal year and institute other reforms, including the authorization of an additional 3,000 visas and expanded eligibility, so that the U.S. can keep its promise to the individuals and their families who served alongside Americans overseas.
"We have a responsibility to fulfill our obligation to the thousands of civilians who risked their lives and that of their families to help our country during a time of war," Senator Shaheen said. "Even as we conclude our mission in Afghanistan and face tough issues at home, we have a clear responsibility to make good on American promises to our Afghan allies who are now living in fear of retribution because they believed in our mission enough to risk their lives for it."
"These Iraqi and Afghan translators and guides risked their lives to assist American soldiers, and we made a promise to take in those who had served us when the American presence was scaled down and they no longer had our protection," Representative Blumenauer said. "If we pass this bill, we can come one step closer to keeping that promise for all who served. This legislation also expands the opportunity for sanctuary to translators who served just as bravely for U.S. media outlets, NGOs, and the International Security Assistance Force, as well as their families who would be in life-threatening danger if left behind."
"The Afghan men and women who risked everything to assist American forces during the war deserve to know that the United States will honor the promises made to them and their families," Representative Kinzinger said. "This is more than just the right thing to do, it is necessary to show that we as a nation can be taken at our word both now and in the future. It is naïve to think the United States will never be in another conflict and holding up our end of the bargain today could very well save American lives down the road."
The Afghan Allies Protection Extension Act is supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), and the Truman National Security Project among others, who were in attendance at a press conference on Capitol Hill today.