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New Defense Bill May Block Visas for Afghans Who've Worked for the US

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US Visa - Sputnik International
Next year’s defense appropriation bill may leave the Afghan interpreters who worked with state agencies ineligible for US visas, even if working with the US government put their lives in danger in Afghanistan.

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Currently, the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program makes Afghans who have worked with the FBI, State Department, or with other military and support operations, eligible to apply for US visas, if their lives were placed at risk.

The latest version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act in the House of Representatives would change that however, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

“If this becomes the law of the land, in all intents and purposes there will not be an SIV program anymore,” Matt Zeller, a former Army captain who runs the interpreter advocacy group No One Left Behind, told the Beacon. “And we will be outright turning our backs on a group of people we have made a fundamental promise to.”

Zeller maintains that the bill, in its current form, is a “wink and a nod to the State Department to start denying anybody who’s applying for a [special immigrant] visa.”

“All the people who worked for the FBI, the DEA, our very own State Department, none of those people suddenly qualify,” said Zeller, adding that the changes could also cause problems for Afghans who worked in covert capacities for US intelligence agencies.

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He explained that those people who have worked with the West will be at great risk at the hands of the Taliban.

“As far as the Taliban are concerned, they worked for the US military and they should all die,” he said.

Afghans who choose to work with the US government place themselves in great danger, and are promised safe passage in return. There is currently a backlog of 10,000 applicants, however, and only 4,000 visas left to be handed out.

Zeller made the case that the bill will increase an already massive distrust in the US military in the region, and leave troops in harm’s way.

“How could members of Congress put our current troops in this much danger?” he asked. “What happens if the current Afghans working as translators decide they can’t trust the US to keep its promise, and just quit?”

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