Military Leadership & Diplomats Urge Congress to Extend Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program Championed by Senator Shaheen
**In two separate Senate hearings today, Department of Defense and State Department witnesses stressed the importance of keeping our nation’s promise to Afghans who have supported the U.S. mission**September 15, 2016
(Washington, DC)— U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) welcomed comments from military leadership and diplomats during Senate hearings today in strong support of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The Afghan SIV program allows Afghans who faithfully supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and are under threat because of this service to apply for refuge in the United States. In the past few years, the SIV program has been sustained through the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but this year the Senate failed to adopt language offered by Sen. Shaheen to extend the program and authorize additional visas. Without Congressional action, this program is expected to run out of visas in the coming months.
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning, Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Mark Milley voiced his support for extending the program saying, “Those are brave men and women who have fought along our side and there are American men and women in uniform who are alive today because a lot of those Afghans put their lives on the line.” In that same hearing, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps General Robert Neller also stressed the importance of the program and the need for Congress to extend it.
In a Senate Foreign Relations hearing today, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson relayed the State Department’s strong support for the SIV program and emphasized that visas will soon run out: “Without an infusion of visas, we will very shortly be exhausting the ability to issue visas, whether it’s to individuals who served with our armed forces or our locally engaged staff.”
Last week, Senator Shaheen welcomed a letter in support of continuing the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program that was distributed to Congress and signed by 36 distinguished retired military leaders and organizations representing hundreds of thousands of veterans.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times earlier this summer, Senator Shaheen warned of the strategic costs of abandoning these Afghans. Shaheen also expresses her intention to extend the SIV program through this year’s appropriations process. Soon after this op-ed was published, language was included in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that provides 4,000 additional visas and extends the program for another year.
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