Merit-based immigration should favor Afghan translators

Merit-based immigration should favor Afghan translators
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE announced his immigration plan in the Rose Garden this week, highlighting how out-of-whack our visa system has been for the last 50 years. His plan calls for an increase in skilled and merit-based green cards from 12 percent to 57 percent, on par with other countries. I applaud this common-sense adjustment. America is, has been, and always will be a generous nation — but now is the time to prioritize who deserves to be first in line.

Afghan translators who risked their lives to stand with us in their country, against terrorism, have proven their merit. The ones still in Afghanistan desperately wait three to five years for the visas that we promised them. As they wait, they are hunted by the Taliban. While bureaucrats dither, our allies are dying. But our veterans aren't giving up.

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Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, in and out of uniform, are trying to keep our nation's promise to these brave individuals. It's really remarkable and makes me even more proud to be an American. Without any top-down directive, these men and women have worked independently to help their Afghan partners navigate the opaque State Department Special Immigrant Visa process. Success is defined by persistence. These men and women spend years coordinating paperwork and lobbying Congress.

Stories like those of the Navy SEALs who worked to bring over Johnny Walker, "American Sniper" Chris Kyle's translator, or the Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who created a Go Fund Me to help their translator Fred, or Pittsburgh Steelers Number 78 and Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva resettling his translator in Houston — and even Fox New's own Pete Hegseth getting his translators here — are just a few examples. It's really quite humbling.

Now, something rare has happened in Washington: An immigration issue has captured bipartisan support from seven senators and 30 House members. This group filed legislation in both chambers to make 4,000 more Special Immigrant Visas available. This is a lifeline for those translators still back in Afghanistan, but there still is much work to be done.

The White House and Congress should join forces to ensure our most valued allies are recognized as the most deserving for merit-based immigration. The administration needs to direct the State Department to streamline the vetting process for these brave Afghan men and women. It was great to see President Trump applaud two Afghan translators at Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer's Medal of Honor ceremony. His administration can and should do more to honor our allies' bravery.

In a letter to the Senate, Gen. Austin Miller, commander of Resolute Mission and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, writes: "All of these Afghans placed themselves at great personal risk. They endured threats to themselves and their families to help secure our homeland. I believe they have earned the opportunity to pursue the American dream. Allowing them to do so is a testament to our national values and loyalty to those who risked their lives on our behalf."

Well said, Gen. Miller. I could not agree more.

Now is the time to act. Promises made must be promises kept to Afghan translators who sacrificed for America. To leave them behind is a death sentence.

Now is the time for men and women of goodwill in the House and the Senate to come to the aid of those who are most deserving of immigrating to the United States. Congress, get the president a bill he can sign.

Bradley Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a contributor to Fox News and Fox Business.