Shaheen Announces Growing Bipartisan Support for Her Bill to Protect Afghan Allies through SIV Program
**Legislation increases authorized number of Afghan Special Immigrant Visas & improves visa processing for those facing danger after supporting U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, today announced growing bipartisan support for her bill, the Afghan Allies Protection Act, to help protect the Afghan civilians who risked their lives to support the U.S. mission. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) signed onto her bill, which would increase the number of authorized visas, remove extraneous paperwork requirements and improve the program’s efficiency ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
In light of increasing violence and major territorial gains by the Taliban, yesterday, President Biden discussed U.S. strategy as troops withdraw from Afghanistan. A concrete plan to strengthen the SIV program – as outlined by Shaheen’s legislation – would allow the U.S. to fulfill its promise to the Afghans who supported and saved the lives of American service members and diplomatic personnel. The SIV program is the best path to ensuring the safety of Afghan allies that were integral to the U.S. mission.
Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) were original sponsors of the bill.
“As the Taliban intensifies its attacks in Afghanistan, a unified message from the United States that we stand with our Afghan allies is critical. That’s why I’m pleased to see growing bipartisan support for my bill to provide a path to safety for those who risked their lives to support our missions by strengthening the SIV program,” said Senator Shaheen. “We have a moral imperative to act now – before it’s too late – and fulfill our promise of safety for the Afghans who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our troops.”
“Our Afghan allies put their lives on the line to keep American soldiers safe,” said Senator Sasse. “Now, the Taliban is going to slaughter them if we don’t keep our word. We have a moral responsibility to get these folks out of harm’s way as soon as possible. This should be a no brainer.”
“Over the past two decades, thousands of Afghan allies stood shoulder to shoulder with American troops,” said Senator Scott. “And in return, we rewarded their bravery and sacrifice with the promise of safety here in the United States. I stand ready to make good on that promise and ensure those who fought under our flag have the opportunity to seek their own American Dream.”
“Thousands of Afghan civilians who supported American service members as interpreters, informants and in other important roles over the past twenty years are now incredibly vulnerable to being hunted down and killed should the Taliban retake control of the country,” said Senator Sullivan. “The United States is a country of honor, and this distinction demands that we do everything we can to protect our Afghan allies who courageously stood with us against the forces of oppression and tyranny. I’m glad to join Senator Shaheen in putting forward legislation to expeditiously bring our Afghan partners to safety, and to send a message to the world that America does not abandon our partners and friends.”
“The United States and our allies owe a debt to the many Afghan nationals who worked as interpreters and supported our troops over the past two decades, fighting and dying alongside the U.S. Armed Forces. Their sacrifices must not be forgotten or ignored as we prepare to finally end our mission in Afghanistan, and I’m proud to join Senators Ernst and Shaheen in this effort to help those who helped us over the past 20 years,” said Senator Lummis.
“Over the past two decades, our service members have served side by side with Afghan allies who have courageously risked their lives to support the United States and our allies. Now, as we withdraw, their lives and the lives of their families are threatened by the Taliban because of that service. We have a moral obligation to stand with them just as they stood with us,” said Senator Young.
“The President’s decision to withdrawal from Afghanistan was ill-advised, not in accordance with conditions on the ground, but determined by an arbitrary date. Unfortunately, we are seeing the consequences of this now as the Taliban continue their military offensive,” said Senator Portman. “This legislation is essential in ensuring that those who stood with us are not placed in harm’s way by the Taliban. The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is the only path to ensuring the safety of our Afghan allies, who aided U.S. service members and diplomats for almost two decades.”
“The decision to leave Afghanistan was set in motion by President Trump’s agreement with the Taliban which was not the subject of a vote by the then majority. The issue now is helping those who helped us, and I am glad that on this front there is strong bipartisan support for action,” said Senator Reed.
“Afghan men and women supported the United States’ military and diplomatic efforts and in some cases, saved the lives of service members and diplomatic personnel. The Senate must support and expand the Special Immigrant Visa program in order to uphold our commitment to these brave individuals, who put themselves at risk to help our country,” said Senator Gillibrand.
“Nations are judged by the manner and care with which they leave the field of battle — not just by future foes and prospective allies, but also by the eyes of history,” said Senator King. “The world is watching to see what we do — or don’t do — for our Afghan allies in this life-or-death moment. It’s not only a strategic decision, but a moral imperative.”
“By strengthening the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program, Afghans who risked their lives supporting U.S. missions can escape the danger they face as a result of their service to our nation,” said Senator Kaine. “These brave Afghans put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives of servicemembers from Virginia and across the nation and we must help keep them safe. I’m proud to support this important legislation that upholds our promises to these courageous men and women.”
The legislation would provide immediate improvements and strengthen efficiency of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program by:
- Increasing the number of authorized visas;
- Changing the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year;
- Postponing the required medical exam until the applicant and their family have arrived in the United States;
- Removing the requirement for a credible sworn statement regarding the threat an applicant faces;
- Removing the “sensitive and trusted” requirement for International Security Assistance Force and Resolute Support employment; and
- Providing for Special Immigrant status for certain surviving spouses and children of murdered applicants.
Full text of the legislation is available here.
Senator Shaheen historically partnered with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on this priority and continues to lead bipartisan efforts in Congress to reauthorize additional Afghan SIVs. Most recently, in the fiscal year 2021 government funding legislation that was signed into law, Senator Shaheen secured an additional 4,000 Afghan SIVs.