ICYMI: On Senate Floor, Shaheen Highlights Bipartisan Efforts to Extend Visa Program for Afghan Support Staff

June 14, 2018

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**Senator Shaheen also joined with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to discuss their bipartisan efforts to stall the transfer of F35 fighter jets in response to the Turkish government’s imprisonment of an American pastor and Turkey’s purchase of Russian weapons designed to shoot down the F35**

** Watch her remarks on Afghan SIVs here and Turkey here**

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) urged the Senate to support the continuation of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program (SIV), which allows Afghans who have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States. Shaheen’s legislation authorizes 4,000 additional visas for the next fiscal year and takes additional steps to strengthen Afghan SIV processing and vetting.

Afghan civilians who have assisted our military as firefighters, construction workers and community liaisons are being targeted by the Taliban for their work. In her speech, Shaheen drew attention to brave Afghans who have come to the United States through this program, including Patmana Rafiq Kunary, whom Shaheen met last year in Keene, New Hampshire.

Patmana had worked closely with the US Agency for International Development in Kabul.  She went door to door, encouraging women to take out microloans to start up their own small businesses….But for a woman in Afghanistan, going door to door and working closely with Americans, this was dangerous work.  She drew unwelcome attention wherever she went, and became a high-profile target for the Taliban and others.  Then, one day in 2013, she got a call at her USAID office… The caller’s husband had just been murdered, apparently in retaliation for his work with the Americans. Realizing that her life was in danger, too, Patmana applied for a Special Immigrant Visa.  For two years, she and her husband were subjected to repeated interviews in the US embassy in Kabul.  Her background was checked and rechecked, before visas were finally granted. Patmana now lives very happily in Keene, New Hampshire with her husband and three-year-old baby. Her husband, Mohsin Khan, has found work as an auditor with a local financial company.”

Watch her speech HERE.

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to protect and extend the SIV program. Last year, alongside Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Shaheen helped secure 3,500 visas for the current fiscal year. Senator Shaheen’s legislation to extend the program is cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Earlier, Shaheen and Tillis discussed their bipartisan and widely supported amendment to this year’s defense bill to stall the delivery or transfer of F35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey. Given Turkish President Erdogan’s willingness to take American hostages, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, and his inability to fully guarantee the safety of American and NATO assets in Turkey, Senators Shaheen and Tillis felt it inappropriate and dangerous to send Turkey F-35 planes at this time.

Watch her speech HERE.

Senators Shaheen and Tillis have teamed up with Senator Lankford (R-OK) to free Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is one of several Americans being unjustly held by the Turkish government. Senators Shaheen and Tillis led a 66 Member letter to the President of Turkey, demanding the release of Brunson, and Shaheen jointly announced with Senator Lankford that she would pursue targeted sanctions against Erdogan and officials complicit in the hostage-taking of Americans in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill. Shaheen and Tillis both serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and are co-chairs of the Senate NATO Observer Group. Shaheen is also the only woman serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.