US lawmakers introduce bill to increase Afghan visas

Additional 2,500 travel documents would be given to Afghans who supported US mission in war-torn country

US lawmakers introduce bill to increase Afghan visas

World Bulletin / News Desk

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday to raise the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. forces in the war-torn country.

The additional 2,500 travel documents would supplement the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program the State Department warned last week is running low as the U.S. embassy in Kabul has reportedly halted interviews for the program.

"The SIV program allows Afghans, including interpreters, who supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service, to apply for refuge in the United States," John McCain, Jeanne Shaheen, Jack Reed and Thom Tillis said in a statement that announced their legislation.

The four lawmakers sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee with McCain serving as chairman and Reed the ranking member.

They warned last year that the defense authorization bill signed into law included an insufficient number of visas for Afghans assisting U.S. forces.

"We simply cannot win this war without the assistance of the Afghan people who put their lives on the line to help American troops and diplomats serving in harm’s way," McCain said. "Unfortunately in recent years, Congress has reneged on the promise we made to protect these brave individuals by failing to authorize the appropriate number of Special Immigrant Visas"

The new legislation will ensure the viability of the SIV program "and send a clear message that America will not turn its back on those — who at great personal risk — stand with us in the fight against terror”, McCain added.

The current visa allotment stands at 8,500, and would be increased to 11,000 under the new legislation.

Afghanistan is not one of the countries temporarily blacklisted by President Donald Trump's ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries. But lawmakers have resisted calls for increasing the SIV program due to what they say are security concerns.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Mart 2017, 00:45