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Visas for Afghans, Iraqis Who Helped U.S. Forces Get Small Reprieve, But Program Needs Big Fixes ASAP

The next step is up to the administration as Blumenauer tries to bring agencies together: "The number of men and women who continue to wait is deeply depressing."

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

October 25, 2013 - 5:20 pm
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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. 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. 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.

Blumenauer noted that in Fiscal Year 2013 only 339 special visas had been issued to Iraqis out of 5,000 available, a “staggeringly low” number in comparison to the 1,655 processed in FY 2012.

As of June 30 in Afghanistan, just 144 of the FY 2013 visas were issued to Afghans who face threats from the Taliban in return for working with the soon-to-withdraw American forces. Out of the 1,500 annual available visas, that’s the least issued out of any prior year despite the backlogged applicants.

He also noted how the State Department lauded renewal of the programs as sending a message not just to those who help the U.S. abroad “that we are committed to those who place their lives on the line to assist our national interests,” but to people around the world “whom we may ask in the future to do the same.”

“Clearly the same logic applies — and the same message is sent — if we’re unable to make the SIV programs function properly,” Blumenauer wrote.

The congressman asked for an opportunity to confer with the agencies to come up with a comprehensive plan “about who should be responsible and how we can make the Iraq and Afghanistan SIV programs function.”

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 have 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.

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project offered examples of the human toll of the special immigrant visa backlog in both countries.

“An Iraqi who owned a company that supplied the U.S. military mission for five years, from 2003 to 2008, was threatened repeatedly and had to flee to Jordan. He applied for an SIV in 2011. He received final approval and was granted a visa in July 2012.Yet, his visa was inexplicably cancelled at the airport, but the U.S. Embassy suggested that he reapply. However, in March 2013, he and his family began to receive dozens of threats via phone and text message, referencing his work with the US and threatening to kill his family.  Weeks after the threats began, his family’s home in Iraq was firebombed, and his entire family had to flee. Their cases remain pending,” reads one case from the project.

“Mr. Mashal applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) in June 2012 and was given an interview date on September 18, 2013 at Embassy Kabul. His case is currently in administrative processing, as he undergoes security checks. Mr. Mashal worked alongside retired Army Captain Matt Zeller in Afghanistan. Mr. Mashal is in urgent danger as he is no longer working for U.S. Forces, and is therefore no longer afforded a special layer of protection. Mr. Mashal has been living in hiding at his family’s house in Kabul. One month ago, Taliban fighters knocked on the door of his father’s house looking for Mr. Mashal. While his father was at the door, Mr. Mashal was able to escape by jumping over the fence into his neighbor’s yard. The Taliban threated Mr. Mashal’s father and said that they were planning to execute Mr. Mashal for his assistance of the U.S. Military.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (6)
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"It can be dangerous to be America's enemy, but often fatal to be her friend." -- Winston Churchill
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The programs to secure visas for Iraqis and Afghans who put their lives on the line to help U.S. forces got a short reprieve...

Whoa right there. The U.S. soldiers for whom the Iraqis and Afghans put their lives on the line put their lives on the line when they flew in from North America in a futile attempt to stop the savagery over there. If we're gonna persist as the World Police, we need to make things so that none of our allies in foreign lands we're helping are able to come to America, none.

Remember all the murders of American soldiers and marines by Iraquis and Afghans we armed and trained. And paid, very well. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as any Infidel can see just by taking a trip to Dearborn or Malmo. I still chuckle when I think of the $6 billion the CIA and State put on pallets in Baghdad to buy loyal allies. It disappeared, and no explanation was ever made as to what happened, who was at fault, or how stupid and fruitless it is to try and buy loyalty. Especially from Moslems.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
up to I saw the draft 4 $5028, I have faith that...my... friends brother actually bringing home money part time at there labtop.. there mums best friend started doing this for only about six months and just now repayed the dept on there condo and got a great new Chevrolet. you can check here >>>>> http://x.co/2hNL1
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is the world coming to when a guy named Holy Prophet has zero non-fallacious reasoning ability? The whole point of life is determining friends from enemies. Have you heard of the American Revolution or the Civil War? There are a large number of believers in the American project outside American and in the ME. IF there is no way to determine who they are then we'd have lost the Cold War. If you don't believe in American principles anymore, then I guess you just want to preside over American decline as a native. I'm not comforted. We're rotting from the inside real fast by faux-patriots such as yourself.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Moslem allies have taken and have run under fire. Many have murdered our soldiers and marines using our weapons and ammo to do it. Like Saudi Arabia, they are fake allies good only for the moment, until they go back into the hills to spread the dollars among their cohorts, other Moslems.

And we're morally bound to bring them into this country? Where's the American principle in that? Dearborn and Malmo is where.

At least with the Saudis we got a secure source of honestly purchased oil.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
This all seems like spitting into the wind. House passes resolutions/whatever, Reid will never take up anything showing up the Obama administration, Hagel is an incompetiment idiot and Kerry's only claim to success is as the world's greatest gigolo.
Our enemies laugh at us, our "allies" fear us & nothing, nothing is ever going to get better, at home or abroad.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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