Shaheen: Ending Afghan Visa Program "Would Be a Stain on Our National Honor"

**Visas for Afghan interpreters and other support staff expected to run out by early January unless Congress acts**

September 21, 2016

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(Washington, DC)— This afternoon, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging Congress to extend the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program which is expected to run out of visas by early January. The Afghan SIV program allows Afghans who faithfully supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and are under threat because of their 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. Senator Shaheen and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) are leading efforts to find a legislative solution to extend the program and providing additional visas.

“Unless we act, Congress is on course to callously let this program lapse in a matter of months, abandoning thousands of Afghans to a harsh fate,” said Senator Shaheen today on the Senate floor. “It is no exaggeration to say that this is a matter of life and death.  Afghan interpreters who served the US mission are being systematically hunted down by the Taliban.  We must not abandon them.”

“Mr. President, the United States promised to protect these Afghans who served our mission with great loyalty and at enormous risk.  It would be a stain on our national honor to break this promise.  It would also carry profound strategic costs.  US forces and diplomats have always relied on local people to help us accomplish our missions.  We continue to require this assistance in Afghanistan. We will need this support in other places in the future. One must ask: Why would anyone agree to help the United States if we are notorious for abandoning those who assist us?”

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 Senate’s State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that would provide 4,000 additional visas and extend the program for another year.

Earlier this month, Senator Shaheen welcomed a letter in support of continuing the SIV program that was distributed to Congress and signed by 36 distinguished retired military leaders and organizations representing hundreds of thousands of veterans.