Senators propose visa increase for Afghan civilians

A bipartisan pair of senators has introduced legislation that would grant additional visas to Afghan civilians who work alongside U.S. military forces.

The measure, put forward last week by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenPath to 60 narrows for Trump pick Overnight Finance: Trump stock slump | GOP looks to tax bill for lifeline | Trump repeals 'blacklisting rule' | Dem wants ethics probe into Treasury secretary Overnight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease MORE (D-N.H.) and John McCainJohn McCainSenate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro A great military requires greater spending than Trump has proposed Cheney: Russian election interference could be ‘act of war’ MORE (R-Ariz.), would allot 1,000 additional visas for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which is set to expire in September.

ADVERTISEMENT
The program provides 3,000 visas every fiscal year to Afghanis who help the U.S. government by serving as interpreters and guides, but Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryCongress, Trump need a united front to face down Iran One year ago today we declared ISIS atrocities as genocide Trump’s realism toward Iran is stabilizing force for Middle East MORE has warned that his agency will soon hit the cap.

Kerry wrote that as the U.S. prepares to draw down its forces in Afghanistan by 2016, Washington is “in danger of sending the wrong message to Afghan interpreters and others who risked their lives helping our troops and diplomats do their jobs in Afghanistan over the last decade.”

In a statement, Shaheen said the U.S. must “make good” on promises to Afghanis “who are now living in fear of retribution because they believed in our mission enough to risk their lives for it.”

“They cannot wait; it is essential Congress pass this bipartisan bill so we can come one step closer to keeping that promise for all who served,” she added.

McCain said that the local assistance has been a “critical resource to our troops throughout the past decade and it would be unconscionable to abandon these brave individuals who are now in danger for their service to the United States’ mission in Afghanistan."

In May, Shaheen and McCain, along with Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOvernight Finance: Biz groups endorse Trump's Labor pick | New CBO score coming before health bill vote | Lawmakers push back on public broadcasting cuts Dem, GOP lawmakers push back against Trump’s cuts to public broadcasting Trump: Mar-a-Lago 'most convenient' place to hold VA meeting MORE (D-Ore.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), unveiled a billl that would extend the SIV program for another fiscal year and expand the program to allow Afghans who aided the International Security Assistance Force, media outlets and non-profit organizations to apply for visas.

The measure has since been incorporated into the Senate’s version of the 2015 defense authorization bill. Senior lawmakers are still working on an agreement for floor amendments to the policy bill, which was voted out of committee in May.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.