WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, has introduced bipartisan legislation to protect Afghans who risked their lives to assist the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
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The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2019, introduced on Thursday, would provide 4,000 special immigrant visas (SIVs) for the remainder of the fiscal year, that would be available for Afghans whose lives are in jeopardy because of their service.
The measure also would address administrative obstacles that prevent Afghan and Iraqi allies from receiving visas, according to a statement released by Shaheen’s office.
Shaheen has worked for years on legislative efforts to protect Afghans who have worked as interpreters and support staff in their country to assist American personnel.
“Afghan civilians continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Americans in the battlefield at tremendous risk to the safety and welfare of their families,” Shaheen said.
“Their service in support of our military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan has saved American lives and we have an obligation to provide sanctuary from terrorist threats.”
Shaheen said she is concerned by reports that the Trump administration has “drastically” reduced visas in both Afghan and Iraqi programs.
Doing so could jeopardize future missions, she said. “As a nation, we must be true to our word, and Congress can do its part by making sure enough visas are consistently made available,” she said.
Shaheen worked with the late Sen. John McCain on efforts to protect locals who assisted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
The senator’s widow, Cindy McCain, who chairs the board of trustees at the McCain Institute for International Leadership, said her husband’s legacy lives on through the bipartisan bill introduced on Thursday.
“I know firsthand that our country and military rely upon the support of the brave Afghan men and women who risk their lives to help the United States,” McCain said.
“I urge quick passage of this legislation so that not one more of our Afghan heroes is harmed while awaiting refuge in the United States.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).