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Stivers Encourages Administration to Support Our Allies

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Washington, February 22, 2021 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier last week, Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH), together with five of his colleagues, alerted President Joe Biden to serious concerns with the efficiency of the United States’ Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program.

“As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I could focus on my mission because I knew I had the unwavering support of everyone on our team, including the interpreters and support staff there with us every day,” said Representative Stivers. “When our team needed them most, our partners in the Middle East stood alongside American men and women in uniform to help defend their own country against extremists. Improving the SIV program is how we keep our promise to those who risked their lives, families, and homes.”

Interpreters and support staff, who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, alongside U.S. military troops, diplomats, and government employees made courageous sacrifices to advance the goal of peace in the region. Unfortunately, many of these partners are now targets for extremist groups. In 2009, the SIV program was created for those who had been employed alongside American troops and were experiencing an ongoing threat as a result of that employment. The SIV program keeps our military’s promise of “no man left behind”.

The SIV applicant backlog consists of nearly 17,000 Afghan interpreters (70,000 if eligible family members are included) and 100,000 Iraqis. These numbers continue to increase. The processing times for applications have also slowed to an average wait time of three years to make it through the fourteen-step eligibility process. The Department of State continues to implement outdated rules such as the “sensitive and trusted” requirement which Section 1219 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 removed. Together, these inefficiencies continue delaying, and sometimes wrongfully denying, allies the safety they were promised.

Citing the tens of thousands of these Afghan and Iraqi individuals waiting on America’s help, Representative Stivers encouraged President Biden to continue the United States’ longstanding commitment to standing up for human rights and supporting those who are facing persecution.

Representative Stivers added that during his time deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he worked with 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,” Stivers said.

For years, Stivers has fought for the SIV program. Stivers also cosponsored the Afghan Allies Protection Act to increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) available to foreign allies facing persecution for serving U.S. military forces as interpreters or other support staff. Last Congress, Stivers and a bipartisan coalition of members, successfully advocated for the inclusion of more available visas for the SIV program in the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2020. The most recent Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021, enacted on December 27, 2020, authorized 4,000 additional SIVs for Afghan applicants. A total of 26,500 SIV’s have been approved since December 19, 2014.

The letter can be found here.

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