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Time Ticking on Visa Programs to Help Iraqis, Afghans Who Risked Lives for U.S.

Blumenauer: "Thousands of people are now threatened on a daily basis by people with very long memories," yet "approvals have been just a trickle."

Bridget Johnson


September 26, 2013 - 6:00 pm
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WASHINGTON — Time is running out on programs to secure visas for Iraqis and Afghans who put their lives on the line to help U.S. forces.

Rep. Earl Blumenaeur (D-Ore.), a key proponent of the special immigrant visas, noted on the House floor today that the programs, which expire in four days, have devolved into a bureaucratic mess that leaves many who have risked their lives to serve Americans in the lurch just when they may need the U.S. most.

“There is overwhelming bipartisan support, led in the most articulate and forceful way by new members in both parties like Tulsi Gabbard and Adam Kinzinger, who are themselves veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. This bipartisan group of recent veterans has seen the invaluable service and sacrifice of these people, and feels a deep commitment to their safety,” Blumenaeur said.

“Sadly, not everybody in Congress feels that commitment, that moral obligation. The House Judiciary Committee leadership has been passive, if not outright opposed…If this program shuts down for even a few hours, it will set back their progress because of the cumbersome, convoluted nature of the program of security checks. People will be forced back to square one for approval, with their lives in great peril.”

The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 authorized 1,500 special immigrant visas annually for Afghan employees and contractors of the U.S. government for fiscal years 2009 through 2013. Those eligible have worked for the U.S. for at least a year and have been the target of “an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment.” The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 authorized the special immigrant visa program for five years, extended to Iraqis who gave “faithful and valuable service” to the U.S. government and faced risks as a result.

In March, 19 members of the House and Senate, including six veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote President Obama to request his assistance in getting the programs extended.

“It is our belief that the purpose of these programs has not yet been fulfilled and must be reformed and extended in order to meet their Congressional intent,” stated the letter. Between FY 2008 and FY 2012, only 22 percent of the available Iraqi visas and just 12 percent of the special visas available to Afghans were issued. This wasn’t for a lack of applicants, as the Washington Post reported nearly a year ago that more than 5,000 Afghan applications were backlogged.

Out of the 8,000 visas available to Afghans over that time period, just 1,051 were issued. Out of the 25,000 reserved for Iraqis, 5,500 were issued.

“Innumerable Afghans who served the U.S. Government wait in peril, their lives and family threatened,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Blumenaeur. “The extension and reform of these programs is a matter of national security, and these programs represent an important tool for the U.S. operations in Afghanistan.”

Some applicants have taken bullets for the U.S. cause. Most come with multiple recommendations from military personnel and have served up to eight years alongside the Americans. Lawmakers noted there’s little transparency in how the Baghdad and Kabul embassies make their decisions, and the applicants have no route to appeal.

If the family of an Iraqi who helped U.S. forces is also under threat, they can also apply for visas under the program. Under the Afghan side of the program, though, only a spouse and children under 21 are eligible.

Today Blumenaeur, who first introduced legislation in 2007 to help those who’ve helped American forces, stressed “there was an implicit promise: as they risked their lives to help us, we would work to protect them when the American presence was scaled down.”

“These were the people who were interpreters, guides, drivers; people who performed countless tasks, without which our military, diplomatic, and redevelopment efforts would have been impossible,” he said.

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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is just sooo typical of American Diplomacy. Use and forget. Don't forget the Dr in Pakistan that helped Obama kill Osama. He was left to rot in jail, and tortured daily. If other countries treated America like this they would NOT like it. GROW UP America and help your friends , while you still have some.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Of course all efforts should be made to let these people in; we must honor our obligations and nothing less.

However, I also know, with every fiber of my being, that these people will ultimately vote Democrat and demand bilingual this and that, and they and their children will receive affirmative action, and that they will demand prayer rooms in various public buildings, and that many of their American-born children will end up being politicians who play the anti-white race card and demand reparations of some sort.

No good deed goes unpunished.

I am far too old; I have reached the point in life where the past and the future are simultaneously spread out before me in perfect clarity.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
They f*cked up, they trusted us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Progs will treat these people the same way they treated the Vietnamese.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, those who "helped" the US in Iraq and Afghanistan..helped destroy their own countries. Those supposedly humanitarian invasions cost the lives of a reported million Iraqis and thousands of Afghanistan. Is it any wonder some in those decimated countries have long memories?

#1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
Top 25 of 2009 Apr 30, 2010

After Downing Street, July 6, 2007
Title: “Is the United States Killing 10,000 Iraqis Every Month? Or Is It More?”
Author: Michael Schwartz

AlterNet, September 17, 2007
Title: “Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda genocide, Cambodian killing fields”
Author: Joshua Holland

Reuters (via AlterNet), January 7, 2008
Title: “Iraq conflict has killed a million, says survey”
Author: Luke Baker

Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008
Title: “Iraq: Not our country to Return to”
Authors: Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail

Student Researchers: Danielle Stanton, Tim LeDonne, and Kat Pat Crespán
Faculty Evaluator: Heidi LaMoreaux, PhD

Over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century—the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia’s infamous “Killing Fields” during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You know, Stupid that strong must be painful;
what drug regimen are you on?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We did the same thing to the indigenous peoples that helped us during Vietnam, if it hadn't been for the hard work of American soldiers lobbying for those people they would have been left to be killed by the communists in Vietnam.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is a wonder that anyone, anywhere, believes the words of U.S. Diplomats/politicians anymore.
Soldiers though, that's different - they live by a Code.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"For the moment, he is living safely on an army base," Since when is that safe? How many of our own people have been killed or wounded by supposed friendly troops on our bases? I worked with many ARVN troops and met many South Vietnamese civilians while serving my time there and worried about what may have become of them after we left. Those that couldn't get out wound up in reeducation camps if they were lucky and didn't just get killed outright. We owe these people that helped us and we should honor our commitments to them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
RE: "Who is opposed to this?" posted by Bill Lawrence.

I am opposed to this. For all immigration at this time, any moslem, H1B, and illegal immigrant should be deported back to their countries with sufficient weapons and ammunition to defend themselves.

The help should be given to them in their respective countries to fight the islamic jihadists.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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