Shaheen Denounces Failure to Extend Program that Benefits Afghan Interpreters in Defense Bill
**Senators Shaheen and McCain have championed this program in the Senate and have led successful bipartisan efforts to sustain it**
(Washington, DC)—Despite a backlog of Afghan interpreters seeking refuge in the United States, today the Senate Armed Services Committee approved legislation that failed to extend or authorize new visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program, which allows Afghans who supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result to apply for refuge in the United States. If the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act were to pass Congress in its current form, the State Department would not have visas to issue to thousands of deserving Afghans currently in the application process and would not be able to accept new applications submitted after December 31. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator John McCain (R-NV) have led ongoing bipartisan efforts in Congress to improve the Special Immigrant Visa program and pass extensions to ensure the program remains in operation. Senator Shaheen’s proposal to extend the program for one year and provide 4000 additional visas, was blocked.
“Our nation owes a great debt to the civilians who have provided essential assistance to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan,” said Shaheen. “These brave men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in the field, putting themselves and their families at risk to help our soldiers and diplomats accomplish their mission and return home safely. I am deeply disappointed that the committee was not able to extend this program in this bill, as we have over the last several years. It’s unconscionable to me that Congress would abandon these individuals, many of whom have had their lives threatened. I will do everything in my power to make sure Congress extends this program and I hope we can fix this omission when the bill comes to the Senate floor.”