Special Immigrant Visas: The urgent need to protect our Iraqi and Afghan Allies

IRAP asks the US to Protect the Iraqis and Afghans who served with our troops.

The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008 and the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 laid out clear baseline procedures for Iraqis and Afghans facing persecution as a result of their assistance to the United States. These refugees should expeditiously receive special visas, allowing for their safe resettlement in America.

IRAP’s Success in Reforming of the Iraqi SIV Program

The Iraq program was extremely slow to get off the ground- when the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, out of an allocated 20,000 visas, only a tiny fraction had been given out, leaving thousands of Iraqis to be forced into hiding when their bases closed.

In the fall of 2010, IRAP was asked to participate in a series of briefings at the White House with members of the National Security Council, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense on potential reforms to the Special Immigrant Visa Process.

IRAP led a coalition of NGOs and attorneys in drafting a set of comprehensive suggested reforms to the SIV process.

Read IRAP’s Report to the White House on SIV Reforms

  Iraqi SIV Program Recommendations (3.5 MiB, 6,264 hits)

Ultimately, the vast majority of IRAP’s reforms were implemented, with IRAP working closely to consult with relevant agencies and administration officials on this issue. However, the Afghan program is now facing even more severe challenges than the Iraq program.

U.S. Abandondment of our Afghan Allies:

Congress made similar relief available for our Afghan Allies through the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009. The Act was designed to provide 7500 Special Immigrant Visas over five years for interpreters whose lives are at risk because of their work on behalf of the U.S. military.  I understand that there is currently an estimated backlog of 5,000 applications stuck at Embassy Kabul awaiting permission to apply to USCIS for these visas. IRAP estimates that of 6000 visas for primary applicants (excluding family members/derivatives) allotted by Congress (1500 per year from FY 2009-2012), only about 268 have actually been issued.


  IRAP_Afghan_SIV_Testimonials_10-24.pdf (163.2 KiB, 1,182 hits)

IRAP has received voluminous correspondence from Afghan interpreters and former and active duty U.S. service members concerned about their interpreters’ fate. Even with the current protection of U.S. bases and forces, a recent news estimate suggested that one Afghan is killed every 36 hours due to U.S. affiliation.

We are now poised to repeat the same fatal mistake we made in Iraq- not taking the safety of our allies seriously until after we have abandoned them to their fate. IRAP is working through numerous channels to attempt to bring Embassy Kabul into compliance with this legislation in time to save the lives of the more than 10,000 Afghans who risked their lives daily for the safety of our troops.