Congress did something: Helped 1,000 Afghan interpreters
August 1st, 2014
05:03 PM ET
2 months ago

Congress did something: Helped 1,000 Afghan interpreters

Washington (CNN) - Nearly lost in the chaotic last few days, the dueling House and Senate gave fast-track approval to at least one immigration bill - a measure extending 1,000 more special visas to Afghan citizens who have been working for the United States.

Under current law, 3,000 so-called Special Immigrant Visas were available this year to Afghanistan citizens who have worked as U.S. interpreters or in other key roles. Anyone who qualifies technically has until the end of September to apply, but demand has swelled and all 3,000 spots have already been given out or designated.

That has left scores of Afghans associated with the United States at risk for retaliation but with no access to protection in America.

“(These are) people whose lives are in the balance, they are literally being watched by the Taliban,” said Katherine Reisner of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also works on issues involving Afghanistan. “Without a supply of visas to work with, (the State Department) would not be able to provide relief to people who have earned it and need it desperately.”

The House passed the visa expansion Wednesday but the measure was nearly smothered at the last-minute in the Senate. Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions put a hold on the measure, according to Reisner and to a Senate Democratic leadership aide. Sessions' office did not respond to CNN’s questions, but Friday the hold was removed and the Senate passed the bill unanimously.

“Amidst all the partisanship and rancor in the waning days of Congress, a life-saving bill was passed with bipartisan support,” cheered Becca Heller, who heads the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.

Allowing the additional Afghan workers into the United States would cost an estimated $66 million, largely because of refugee benefits triggered by their status. The measure pays for that by adding an additional $1 to the processing fee for some visas and border-crossing identification cards.

The bill is the latest in a series of visa extensions for both Iraqi and Afghan workers who have put themselves and their families in danger by working for the United States in sometimes hostile territory. Advocates estimate that they will likely need another round of visas for the Afghan interpreters next year.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Congress
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    The only problem in the Congress, is Obama has control of the Senate, and therefore, the House, and he demands things from the Congress, they are unwilling to give.

    August 1, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  2. it must be said

    These are true refugees whose life will be in danger when Obama surrenders Afghanistan to the Taliban. They have helped us so we need to help save their lives.

    August 1, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  3. Ol' Yeller

    "...he demands things from the Congress, they are unwilling to give."

    He hasn't 'demanded' anything. He has requested, begged, asked, pleaded, cajoled, shamed, mocked, and every strategy ever used by any and all previous Presidents to try and get these complaining whiners to do their job. They refuse and blame him for being divisive, you guys drink the fox koolaid and then say ignorant things like... "The only problem in (fill in the blank), is Obama.... (fill in the blank)

    August 1, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. Bigd

    In Vietnam hundreds of people we promised to protect after the war for their help were abandoned when we left. I'm sure the Taliban is gunning for anyone that helped our troops

    August 1, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  5. a little sad

    Rick McDaniel

    The only problem in the Congress, is Obama has control of the Senate, and therefore, the House, and he demands things from the Congress, they are unwilling to give.

    You say the funniest things!

    August 1, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    It would have reflected poorly on Sen Sessions, the Republican Party, and its anti-immigration reform allies had blockage of the bill been successful.

    August 1, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  7. rs

    Rick McDaniel
    The only problem in the Congress, is Obama has control of the Senate, and therefore, the House, and he demands things from the Congress, they are unwilling to give.
    ____________
    Rick- a moment of investigation reveals that while the Democrats have a majority in the Senate, they do not have a filibuster-proof super majority required to beat the senseless GOP and their do-nothing ways. To do that, they would need 60 votes, something McConnell assures will not happen. Which is why the number 541 is important- the number of bills blocked by McConnell with filibusters- along with 37 embassy positions and hundreds of judgeships held in lobo by the Right.
    Be delusional if you like, it's your right, but for a change be honest.

    August 1, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  8. Michael

    America does it again. Same thing we did to the Vietnamese. A disgrace.

    August 1, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  9. marilyn58

    They help others but not their own people in their own country, shameful.

    August 1, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  10. g

    at least they got something done in 5 yrs

    August 1, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  11. Thomas

    @Rick McDaniel
    The only problem in the Congress, is Obama has control of the Senate, and therefore, the House, and he demands things from the Congress, they are unwilling to give.

    =========

    If GW Bush only had that problem.

    I think this article is about congress granting visa for American sympathizers .

    August 1, 2014 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  12. Confused

    We have a few million illegal immigrants crossing our border with everyone looking the other way and arguing about their "legal" status. In the meantime, you have about 10 thousand Afghans who put their lives and their familys' lives on the line and we restrict their immigration to 4000 and very little coverage. What's wrong with this picture? Maybe we should start a program to send these Afghans to Mexico and provide their coyote fees.

    August 2, 2014 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  13. Dar

    Dear Congress, Intrepid this; Your all fired!

    August 2, 2014 06:49 am at 6:49 am |