Blumenauer Welcomes SIV Hero to the US
Washington, DC – Last night, Janis Shinwari, a translator who worked with American troops in Afghanistan, finally landed safely in the United States after an extended ordeal as he applied for a Special Immigrant Visa from the US government. Shinwari’s story gained national attention following the long campaign by Army Capt. Matt Zeller to bring him to the US, which faced numerous pitfalls and spanned several years.
“This is an amazing day,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), one of the originators of the Special Immigrant Visa program and author of the recent extension to the program. “Mr. Shinwari and his family stepping foot on American soil, free from the deadly pursuit of those who would do them harm for helping US soldiers, embodies a promise kept.”
“But while he is an example of the SIV program eventually working,” Blumenauer continued, “there are still thousands of brave translators and their families stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not every applicant is lucky enough to have an effective and perseverant advocate like Matt Zeller. I will continue my efforts in Congress to ensure that the SIV programs are both extended and reformed, and also continue to put pressure on the administration, State Department, and other responsible agencies to make improvements to increase the efficiency and transparency of the programs.”
Blumenauer was able to amend the House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2014 to include reforms for both SIV programs and is in close contact with members of the House and Senate to ensure that these provisions remain in the final bill and properly address the previous shortcomings of the SIV programs. He also introduced and passed a bill to extend the Iraq program through the end of the year, which prevented it from expiring as the House waits for the Senate to pass an NDAA that he anticipates will include a longer-term extension. He recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Hagel, Secretary of State Kerry, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Beers, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Comey, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Olsen, urging reforms in the SIV programs.