US lawmakers seek to extend Afghan visa plan
KABUL (Pajhwok): American legislators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill allowing the Afghans who worked for the US military as interpreters and in other high-risk jobs to immigrate to the US.
Some senators and members of the House of Representative sponsored the Afghan Allies Protection Extension Act, expanding the Special Immigrant Visa programme.
It allows visas for the Afghans who either helped the American war effort or worked for US media outlets and NGOs for at least one year, according to American media reports.
The Washington Post said the programme was set to stop receiving applications this fall, but would continue to run until the end of 2015 and be open to 3,000 additional petitioners.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who is sponsoring the House version of the bill with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot having served in Afghanistan, said: “We have frankly fallen short of the mark. It is clear these people are at risk and that the situation is likely to get worse...”
In the Senate, the effort is spearheaded by John McCain and Jeanne Shaheen. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Kaine, Shaheen, McCain, Ben Cardin, Ron Kirk, Ed Markey, Rob Portman, Saxby Chambliss and Representatives Eliot Engel, Tulsi Gabbard, Alcee Hastings, Duncan Hunter, Ted Poe, David Reichart, Adam Smith and Steve Stivers.
The bill will institute other reforms, including the authorisation of an additional 3,000 visas and expanded eligibility, so that the US can keep its promise to the individuals and their families who served alongside Americans overseas.
Senator Kaine said: “By expanding the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programme, thousands of Afghans who risked their lives serving as interpreters for service members … will have the chance to relocate to the US and escape the constant threats of danger they continue to face.”
The news agency Reuters quoted Representative Earl Blumenauer, a co-sponsor of the bill, as saying: "We have an obligation to people who put their lives on the line.”
Blumenauer linked the slow-paced visa regime to the need for coordinating efforts of the Homeland Security Department, the FBI, the State Department and other agencies looking to prevent potential militants from entering the US.
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