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Afghan interpreters under threat at home, waiting to come to US, potentially derailed

Afghan interpreter serves as 'voice' for Marines on deployment
Wazir (second from left), 57, a former Afghan National Army colonel, served as an interpreter with Combat Logistics Regiment 7 during their most recent deployment to Helmand province, Afghanistan, April-October 2011. Wazir moved to the U.S. in 2005 with his family and was nationalized as a U.S. citizen earlier this year.

The House Armed Services Committee approved a version of the 2017 defense spending bill on Thursday that would leave thousands of Afghan interpreters who worked for the American government in Afghanistan in the lurch.

More than 10,000 applicants, many of whom submitted petitions years ago and are now under threat in their country, are waiting for visas to get to the United States. However, the State Department can approve only about 4,000 applications, given the number of visas currently authorised by Congress.

The committee’s bill provides no additional visas and imposes unreasonable eligibility criteria for applications made after next month. Under the bill, only interpreters who worked with military personnel in the field would be eligible for resettlement. That is senseless, since many interpreters who worked on military bases or in government offices are in similar danger.

The visa program, which has long enjoyed bipartisan support, has become a target of lawmakers who want to limit immigration to the United States, including Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

When the Senate and the House versions of the defense bill are reconciled next month, lawmakers should increase the visa numbers to clear the backlog of pending cases. They should not change the eligibility standard and they should require the State Department to establish a reasonable appeals process for applicants who have been rejected without a clear explanation.

“These are people who have put their lives on the line not just for their country but for ours,” Representative Seth Moulton, a  veteran, said on Wednesday as he introduced an amendment to create additional visas.

“The very least we can offer them is a chance to stay alive.” Moulton and other lawmakers who have served in the military intend to propose sensible changes as the bill moves forward. Their colleagues should listen to them.

(c) 2016 Qatar Tribune. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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