Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Extension of Special Immigrant Visas Sought for Iraqis and Afghans

From the House of Representatives:

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Encourages President Obama to Extend Special Immigrant Visa Program
Washington, DC – Today, a bipartisan group of 19 members of the United States House of Representatives, including 6 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to extend the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs, authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 and the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, which expire at the end of this Fiscal Year and in Fiscal Year 2014 respectively, and address discrepancies over program eligibility, calling the extension and reform of these programs “a matter of national security.”
SIV programs seek to provide safe refuge for Iraqi and Afghan men and women who have provided “faithful and valuable service” to the U.S. Government and face an “ongoing serious threat” as a consequence of that service.  Through these programs, between FY08-FY12, only 22% of the available Iraqi SIVs (5,500 visas out of 25,000 visas) have been issued and 12% of the available Afghan SIVs (1,051 visas out of 8,500 visas) have been issued. In October 2012, the Washington Post reported that over 5,000 documentarily complete Afghan SIV applications remained in a backlog.
Furthermore, unlike the Iraq SIV program, the Afghan SIV program only permits an applicant’s spouse and children under the age of 21 to accompany an applicant, even if other family members face immediate, serious threats of death because of the applicant’s service. When Iraqi allies and their close family members came under threat in Iraq, Congress created separate provisions for other family members under threat. No such path exists for Afghan family members under threat from the Taliban.
The members signed onto the letter are Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Andre Carson (D-IN), Jon Conyers (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) Chris Gibson (R-NY), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Frank Wolf (R-VA).
Comments from Signatories
“The United States should continue this valuable program and offer solace and respite for the brave Afghans and Iraqis who put their lives at risk on our behalf. Our letter is truly bipartisan, and we hope that President Obama will put the full power and authority of his office behind making this happen.” – Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
“Protecting the brave Iraqi and Afghan people who put their lives in danger alongside our own troops is not only a matter of keeping a promise, it is also the right thing to do.  During my time serving in Iraq, I have seen firsthand the life-threatening risks our partners and their families make in the name of peace and democracy,” – Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
"The Iraq and Afghan Special Immigration Visa (SIV) programs are an important way to express our appreciation to those willing to risk their lives in defense of our country. We must uphold the commitment made by the U.S. to the Iraqi and Afghan men and women who served and protected our nation." – Representative Adam Kinzinger (IL-16)

“The Iraq and Afghan Special Immigration Visa (SIV) programs protect the men and women who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with US troops, risking their own lives to strengthen American security. Unfortunately, the majority of SIVs that Congress authorized for our Iraqi and Afghan allies have not been issued due to an unexpectedly slow implementation process. If these programs expire, thousands will be denied entry to the nation they worked to protect.  We owe these brave men and women a debt of gratitude and must ensure we do not abandon those who served us so valiantly.” – Representative David Reichert (WA-08)
“It is important to recognize the Iraqis and Afghans that risked their lives to help the United States.  Extending the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is the right thing to do.”  – Representative Marc Veasey (TX-33)
“The U.S. has a responsibility to follow through on our promise to protect those Iraqis and Afghans who have risked their lives to aid our troops and protect America’s security.” – Representative Peter Welch  (VT-At Large)



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