U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Steve Stivers (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to make available an additional 4,000 visas for U.S.-employed Afghans and Iraqis through the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program.
“This bill is not about politics, it is just the right thing to do,” said Rep. Stivers on Monday.
The members are original cosponsors of the Afghan Allies and Protection Act, H.R. 2796, sponsored on May 16 by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to support the Afghan and Iraqi allies who served alongside U.S. military troops, diplomats and government employees in their homelands. U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Will Hurd (R-TX) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) also are cosponsoring the bill.
“For years, we have fought for the SIV program to ensure protections for those who risked their lives to protect American men and women,” Rep. Kinzinger said. “We made a promise to the men and women who served with us on the battlefield and we must uphold that promise to leave no one behind.”
If enacted, H.R. 2796 also would require the U.S. State Department to report to Congress on both the barriers to protecting American allies and suggestions for improving the SIV program.
Rep. Kinzinger’s office noted that the SIV applicant backlog remains at nearly 20,000 Afghans and continues increasing while the processing times for existing applications has slowed dramatically, forcing many allies to wait for years while living in fear of being targeted.
“Because of their service to the U.S., these individuals and their families have been targeted by the Taliban and terror groups,” said Rep. Kinzinger. “This legislation is important to our allies and our code of honor.”
Rep. Stivers added that during his time deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he worked with many foreign allies who he said were critical to the success of America’s mission. “They did not turn their backs on us, and we cannot turn our backs on them,” he said.