Crow, McCaul, Blumenauer, Kinzinger: We Need to Act Quickly to Bring Our Afghan Partners to Safety
WASHINGTON – Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) released the following statement after a bipartisan press conference calling on the Biden Administration to expedite support for Afghans still awaiting special immigrant visas (SIV).
“As we near the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, our Afghan partners’ lives are on the line and without a plan to keep them safe in the face of heightened danger by the Taliban. There is no time to wait. We strongly urge the Administration to act quickly and provide a detailed plan that will address the serious SIV backlog and bring our Afghan partners to safety,” said Reps. Crow, McCaul, Blumenauer, and Kinzinger.
The Afghan SIV Program was created in 2009 to provide safety for Afghan interpreters, contractors, and security personnel who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan. The application process has been plagued by delays since the program was established and faces severe backlogs, with wait times routinely stretching for years. Since the Biden Administration announced its plans to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, Crow has called on the Administration to expedite this visa process, as Afghan SIV applicants and their families are increasingly under threat by the Taliban.
Last week, Crow introduced the ALLIES Act, bipartisan legislation that would increase the Afghan SIV cap by an additional 8,000 visas and remove burdensome application requirements that slow down the application process without impacting national security. Last month, Crow introduced the HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act, bipartisan legislation to temporarily waive the medical examination requirement for SIV applicants, which is cost prohibitive and difficult for many applicants to safely receive.
The Members were joined by representatives from No One Let Behind, Special Operations Association of America, Special Forces Association, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“We have a moral obligation to uphold our promises to Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who faithfully and courageously served alongside us in brutal combat for years. Keeping our word is also a clear national security imperative in that we must safeguard the integrity of our country in an increasingly interconnected world. America needs our allies to trust that the United States will keep its promises if we are to have any hope of maintaining strong alliances.” – Doug Livermore, National Director for External Communications for the Special Forces Association and Special Forces officer who served in Afghanistan
“These interpreters risked their lives and their families’ lives by aiding the U.S. military. If we abandon our side of the commitment now, people in the future will be less willing to work with us. We have to keep our word that we’re going to help these people after they helped us. That’s the way it has always worked in the past, and it’s what we have to do now.” – Daniel Elkins, Founder of the Special Operations Association of America and Green Beret who served in Afghanistan
“We are worried about the last of our brothers in Afghanistan, and their family members. They are our allies. President Biden, it has been almost three months since you announced we would be withdrawing from Afghanistan. We ask that you please act quickly before it’s too late. Time is running out – we can’t let our friends and allies lease be killed by the Taliban because of their service to the United States.” – Janis Shinwari, No One Left Behind, former Afghan interpreter, and U.S. citizen
“President Biden, I took bullets for our countries’ shared goal of freedom, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the US forces. We are counting on your administration to do the right thing. My two nations – America and Afghanistan – are very different. But at our core, we are the same. This is an opportunity to show the world that humans can bridge our differences and work together to accomplish the impossible.” – Zia Ghafoori, Interpreting Freedom Foundation, former Afghan interpreter, and U.S. citizen
“Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) represents a generation of veterans who have depended on native interpreters to help us on the fields of battle for almost two decades and has long stated our support for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program. This issue is personal to IAVA and our members. We thank Reps. McCaul, Blumenauer, Kinzinger, Crow, and all of the Members of Congress working on this important issue to ensure those that helped us overseas are fully protected.” – Travis Horr, IAVA’s Director of Government Affairs