Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers to NDAA Conferees: Support the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program

August 10, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and 26 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter urging Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conferees to extend the Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) program, authorize additional visas, and retain the future viability of the program by protecting current SIV eligibility guidelines.

“We urge you to stand in strong support of our national security and, in recognition of the sacrifice of our Afghan allies, to authorize additional visas for SIV applicants and to protect current SIV guidelines,” the bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote. “In previous years, Congress has used the NDAA to demonstrate our strong support to these important allies while assuring others across the globe that the United States will stand by its commitments in future missions. We urge you to continue to do so. 

On July 14, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a motion to instruct NDAA conferees to extend the program for one year and to provide additional visas. In their letter, the lawmakers encouraged conferees to follow the Senate-passed motion. 

Additionally, the lawmakers urged conferees to retain current eligibility guidelines for the Afghan SIV program. During House consideration of NDAA, language was included that would restrict program eligibility to exclude Afghans who worked in U.S. consulates, embassies, or military bases. These restrictions could have a harmful impact not only on those Afghans that worked on-base with U.S. troops, or in any number of capacities with U.S. diplomats, but also on future military operations that may rely on the support services of local populations. 

Included below is the letter. Click here for an electronic copy.

 

August 10, 2016 

The Honorable John McCain

The Honorable Jack Reed

Chairman

Ranking Member

Committee on Armed Services

Committee on Armed Services

United States Senate

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Washington, DC 20510

 

 

The Honorable Mac Thornberry

The Honorable Adam Smith

Chairman

Ranking Member

Committee on Armed Services

Committee on Armed Services

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairmen McCain and Thornberry, Ranking Members Reed and Smith, and Conferees:

During conference committee consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, we encourage you to follow the Senate-passed motion to instruct conferees to include language to extend the Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) program and authorize additional visas, while also retaining the future viability of this critical program.

The Afghan SIV program was first enacted through the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 to provide a life-saving path to safety for Afghan nationals who worked alongside U.S. troops, diplomats, and contractors, and who face serious danger as a result of that work. Since then, the program has been extended and reformed numerous times, each time with significant bipartisan and bicameral support. This year, Congress must act so that the State Department can continue to issue visas to Afghans who face imminent threat from the Taliban and other hostile groups because of their service to the U.S. and our allies. Prominent military leaders, diplomats, and national security experts, including Gen. John Nicholson, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Gen. David Petraeus, and Amb. Ryan Crocker, have urged Congress to take action, noting that this program is essential to U.S. national security and credibility amongst our allies.

The Administration aims to issue the remaining authorized visas by the end of this calendar year.  Meanwhile, there are thousands of Afghans at some stage in the SIV process and qualified individuals continue to apply. That is why the President, in his FY2017 budget, asked Congress to authorize additional visas to help address the remaining backlog of applicants. Without further congressional action, the State Department will exhaust its current supply of visas, essentially halting the SIV program, stranding these valuable allies and sending a discouraging message to allies involved in future engagements. We urge you to authorize these additional visas to prevent a shutdown of the SIV program.

During the House’s consideration of H.R. 4909, language was included in Section 1216 that would restrict program eligibility to exclude Afghans who worked in U.S. consulates, embassies, or military bases. These restrictions could have a harmful impact on those Afghans that worked on-base with U.S. troops, or in any number of capacities with U.S. diplomats, because they are just as likely to face danger if their service becomes known to forces hostile to the United States. We urge you to retain current eligibility guidelines for the Afghan SIV program. These allies risked their lives to serve the United States and we owe it to them to ensure their safety.

We urge you to stand in strong support of our national security and, in recognition of the sacrifice of our Afghan allies, to authorize additional visas for SIV applicants and to protect current SIV guidelines. In previous years, Congress has used the NDAA to demonstrate our strong support to these important allies while assuring others across the globe that the United States will stand by its commitments in future missions. We urge you to continue to do so.  

Sincerely,

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