When I served as a Battalion Commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I worked alongside countless courageous men and women – and not just Americans. Tens of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi individuals pledged their service to our missions, serving as interpreters and support staff, and they were absolutely critical to our success. Every day in Iraq, I had an interpreter with me. He stood, literally, by my side throughout my time deployed. Never once did he turn his back on me, and I will not turn my back on him, or the thousands of others who put their lives on the line for the United States.
Unfortunately, their service to our missions puts a target on their back, and on their families, for ISIS and other Muslim extremists, and they are seeking safety in America. That is why, in 2009, the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program was created, in order to ensure that their service and sacrifice doesn’t penalize them and their families. Together with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Seth Moulton (D-MA), I am working to increase the number of SIVs. Our bipartisan coalition is cosponsoring the Afghan Allies Protection Act, which authorizes 4,000 new visas to bring 4,000 of our allies to safety. We say “no man left behind,” and the SIV program keeps that promise.
This bipartisan effort to support our allies gives me optimism that we can find solutions to our nation’s immigration problem, despite the divisive rhetoric that surrounds the issue. For instance, Republicans and Democrats agree that all migrants who come to our nation deserve due process and justice. Unfortunately, the massive influx of individuals seeking asylum has put a strain on the system. With only 450 judges available to hear the claims, folks have to wait just under two years to have a decision; currently, over 730,000 cases are pending.
That’s why I partnered with Representative Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) to introduce amendments to increase the number of immigration judges and to speed up their hiring process. Thankfully, Congress passed an aid package that included the language, so the claims can be processed in a timely manner and individuals do not have to be indefinitely detained and children do not have to be separated from their families.
Seeing the bipartisan support for the SIV program and for my amendments shows me that it is possible to build trust and consensus on an issue that continually divides us. I am a firm believer that building trust on small issues can allow us to tackle the big issues, and I will continue to do my part to advocate for solutions that respect our nation of laws and the dignity of individuals. If you would like to learn more about my amendments, or the SIV program, call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2015, my Hilliard office at (614) 771-4968, my Lancaster office at (740) 654-2654, or my Wilmington office at (937) 283-7049.