“Make no mistake, there is a moral imperative at play here. The American handshake has to mean something.” Army Ranger and Representative Jason Crow (D-CO)
In the quote above, Representative Crow is explaining the necessity and the importance of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program in an effort to protect American integrity as well as our trusted allies. With the Biden Administration’s latest decision to withdraw all American troops from the decades long stint in Afghanistan by September 11th of this year, individuals and groups on both sides of the aisle are imploring the administration to remember the thousands of Afghan civilians who endangered themselves and their families to help American troops throughout the years. These civilians are at risk of suffering under the Taliban if they are to remain in Afghanistan after American troops are gone, which is why many are calling for expedited action in the processing of SIV applications and the swift evacuation of these individuals and their families to Guam before the September withdrawal date.
What is the Afghan SIV Program?
The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program was created in 2009 to protect Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan. These visas are distributed to civilians that meet specific requirements outlined in the program including nationality, length of time working with the US Military, and recommendations as a method of repaying their service with protection from the Taliban. This program also allows the families of these Afghan allies to immigrate to the United States as well. Unfortunately, the application process for the program has been plagued by backlogs and inefficiencies due to understaffing, a decentralized database, and bureaucratic barriers since its inception, with wait times often stretching for years. The average application processing and security check completion for these visas is 800 days.
Why do we need to take action?
In 2021, more than 18,000 of our Afghan allies remain trapped in a slow, bureaucratic SIV process. This number does not include their family members (estimated to be around 53,000) and other allies who may apply as our troops withdraw from Afghanistan. In a survey conducted by No One Left Behind, an organization that tracks and supports our Afghan allies, 90 percent of the allies they contacted received death threats from the Taliban. We must protect our Afghan allies against these threats by expanding the amount of SIVs we provide and expediting the process as a whole. Further, if the U.S. does not support our Afghan allies now, the consequences extend beyond humanitarian concerns. In future conflicts, local allies will be less likely to aid the U.S. military given our past treatment of allies, undermining national security. We must protect our Afghan allies as we withdraw from Afghanistan.
What is happening right now?
In the past few months, organizations such as The International Refugee Assistance Project, Vets for American Ideals, Human Rights First, Lutheran Refugee and Immigration Service, and others have advocated for an evacuation of SIV applicants and their families from Afghanistan. These organizations, along with members of Congress, have asked the Biden administration to evacuate our Afghan allies to Guam while their SIVs are processed to ensure their safety.
While the Biden administration is planning on moving a group of current SIV applicants who served as translators out of Afghanistan while their SIVs are processed, this is not enough. All of our Afghan allies and their families more than deserve to live safely, given the sacrifices they have made for the U.S. military. The Biden Administration must evacuate all SIVs and their families to Guam before the official withdrawal date.
Would you like to take action to support our Afghan allies? Call or email your Congresspeople using the following script:
“Hello, my name is _______, and I am a resident of _______, GA. I am calling today to ask you to support our Afghan allies as our troops withdraw from Afghanistan. These allies have sacrificed the safety of themselves and their families to support the U.S. military. It is now time to protect them as they face increasing threats from the Taliban. First, we must urge the Biden administration to evacuate all of our Afghan allies. Secondly, we must improve and expedite the SIV program for Afghan nationals who have supported the U.S. military. We must push the Biden administration to provide a comprehensive evacuation plan that protects the Afghan allies. Thank you. “
Senator Jon Ossoff: 202 224-3521
Senator Raphael Warnock: (202) 224-3643
To find your representative, please visit this link.