The House of Representatives wants to help Afghans who are faced with retaliation for working with American forces in their home country and is due to vote on Tuesday to expedite the process that would allow them to immigrate to the United States.
While the American military is in the final stages of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, more than 18,000 Afghans who have worked as interpreters, drivers, engineers, security guards and embassy employees for the United States are stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire after applying Specialized immigrant visas available to those under threat because of their work for the US government.
The measure to be voted on Tuesday – the first in a package of bills that would smooth the visa process – would waive a medical exam in Afghanistan before qualifying. The aim is to shorten the long waiting time for a permit to travel to the United States, which for some applicants can take up to six or seven years.
Some of the “Afghan allies” awaiting visas have spoken out about the threats posed by the Taliban.
“This is a moral imperative for our nation,” said Rep. Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, a former Army Ranger who is the law’s main sponsor. “We have to keep our promises to our partners. We will be discussing Afghanistan and the lessons we have learned for decades, but we know that we can do things with honor in the next few weeks. “
The move is one of several being pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, many of whom are military personnel or veterans who have worked with translators, drivers and fixers in Afghanistan and other combat zones.
The group has also pressured the Biden government to conduct a mass evacuation of Afghans awaiting their visas, an idea that President Biden picked up last week, saying, “Those who have helped us will not be left behind.”
But first the Afghans have to qualify for visas. Only one clinic in the country – a German facility in Kabul – carries out the medical examinations in which some people have to travel long distances through dangerous conditions. And the exams are expensive, said Mr. Crow.
A separate bill tabled by the group would expand the universe of eligible Afghans by removing what their proponents call “onerous” application requirements, including a “credible affidavit” of a particular threat and evidence of a “sensitive and trustworthy one.” “Jobs. Instead, it would de facto stipulate that any Afghan who has helped the US government will, by definition, face retribution and should be able to apply for a visa. The bill would also increase the number of visas available.
Since 2014, the nonprofit No One Left Behind has tracked the murder of more than 300 translators or their family members, many of whom died while waiting for their visas to be processed, according to James Miervaldis, group chairman and sergeant to the Army Reserve Officer.
Biden government officials have announced that they will relocate the Afghan allies outside Afghanistan, possibly to Guam, to await processing of their visa applications.