Story at a glance:
- There is bipartisan support in pressuring President Biden to grant visas to Afghans who worked with Americans.
- Congress has directed bipartisan criticism towards Biden, who has maintained that the U.S. can and will get Afghans who helped the country to safety.
- Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Joni Ernst (R-Ia.) wrote a bipartisan letter to the Biden administration stressing how important it is to have the special immigrant visas process recalibrated and working faster.
There is bipartisan support in pressuring President Biden to grant Afghans who worked with American forces a visa to come to the country, as the situation intensifies for those still on the ground.
The Taliban has taken over the Afghanistan government, prompting thousands to crowd the country’s airports in an attempt to flee the now-seized capital, The Guardian reported.
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Among those threatened by the Taliban are translators, drivers and other workers — and their families — who helped American forces. Right now, the logistics of how and when Afghans might be able to come to the U.S. are unclear.
Congress has directed bipartisan criticism toward Biden, who has maintained that the U.S. can and will get Afghans who helped American forces to safety.
“The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone who should come out. And that’s the objective,” Biden said, according to NPR and ABC News. “That’s what we’re doing now. That’s the path we’re on. And I think we’ll get there.”
Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) called the slow process “enraging,” according to The Guardian.
“This has been a program that across administrations had been slow rolled,” Meijer told The Guardian.
Meijer is a veteran who supported expanding the special immigrant visas (SIVs), a program that allows Afghans who worked for the U.S. and can prove they face danger to apply for asylum, in the beginning this year, The Guardian reports.
To qualify for the program, Afghan citizens had to have served directly with U.S. forces for 12 months or served the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for two years between 2001 and 2021.
“When you’re talking to people every night who are moving from house to house because they’re being followed by the Taliban, and … we’re in exactly the situation that several months ago that we thought we would be in … and you are ignored, it tends to be [enraging]” Meijer said.
There are more than 300,000 Afghans that have worked with Americans who occupied Afghanistan, according to the International Rescue Committee, and more than 15,000 Afghans and their families have already relocated to the U.S. via the SIV program.
As of reporting, there are about 18,000 applications pending, and the number of applications is likely to increase, according to The Guardian.
“Right now, in the current crisis, we have put through over 200 SIV requests. My office. That’s really just since the weekend,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told The Guardian.
“For months, I have been calling on the administration to evacuate our allies immediately – not to wait for paperwork, for shaky agreements with third countries, or for time to make it look more ‘orderly’,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said in a statement.
Moulton also rebuked Biden’s claim that Afghans weren’t evacuated sooner because they didn’t want to leave, saying that reasoning is “utter B.S.”
Congresspeople are communicating with the department either individually or with other congressional offices in helping stranded applicants, some of whom are getting rejected because of their polygraphs, medical exams, or because of the length of the processing, Meijer told the Guardian.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) led a group of 50 senators in writing a bipartisan letter to the Biden administration. The letter stresses how important it is to have the SIV process recalibrated and working much faster.
Lawmakers are also saying it’s dangerous for Afghans carrying any U.S.-affiliated paperwork, a requirement to leave the country at the Kabul airport, The Guardian reports.
“I’m very worried about SIVs or even US nationals or dual nationals who are outside of Kabul and right now what should be a 20-minute ride to the airport took them an hour and a half when they attempted it yesterday,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
“I’m frankly terrified of what we might see if we turn our backs on these folks now – of what that will do to our veterans community, of what that will do to civil-military relations,” Tillis said.
“This is not an issue that will go away and if President Biden thinks it will go away he’s only guaranteeing it will get far far worse.”
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