16 Republican lawmakers who have opposed granting US visas to 8,000 Afghans who supported US efforts in the war against the Taliban have been blasted by US immigration advocates and members of the House of Representatives.
In July, the House voted in favor of allowing Afghan interpreters and contractors who worked with the US military to be allowed to relocate to the US under the Special Immigrant Visa program.
The resolution, introduced by Democratic Congressman Jason Crow, passed by 407 votes to 16. The 16 who opposed the motion were all Republicans, including far-right members Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, according to a report published by The Independent.
Lives owed to Afghans
Mr Crow, who himself is a combat veteran of Afghanistan, said that he ‘owed his life’ to Afghans who fought alongside US troops. The bill to grant US visas to 8,000 Afghans was passed on July 22.
Crow said: “Some members of this body, including me, may not be here today without the service and self-sacrifice of Afghans who answered the call to serve shoulder to shoulder with us.”
The former combat veteran called out Ms Boebert in particular for opposing the bill and her criticism of the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
In a Twitter post, Crow wrote: “Wait a minute. A few weeks ago you were 1 of only 16 members of Congress who voted against my bill to expand and speed up the visa program to evacuate and save our Afghan partners.”
Boebert replied saying that she didn’t vote for the bill because amendments were prohibited. She said: “We could’ve fixed problems like reduced qualification standards and added anti-fraud measures to prevent what happened in the Iraqi program.”
Slow evacuation process
With things unravelling quickly in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops, the Biden administration has faced heavy criticism for the slow processing times of US Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). According to official figures, only 2,000 Afghans with SIVs have arrived in the US since evacuation measures began in July.
The US has pledged to relocate as many as 30,000 Afghans currently caught up in the SIV application process.
Under Trump, the program was practically stopped in an effort to reduce legal immigration to the US. In 2019, a federal judge ruled that the US government had violated the law after failing to resolve thousands of US visa applications made by Afghans and Iraqis who had worked for US troops and diplomats.
Mr Crow’s resolution will expand eligibility for US SIVs to include the family members of Afghans who have been killed. The bill now needs to pass the Senate prior to it becoming law.
As the Taliban retakes control of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Afghans who contributed to the US and its 20-year occupation of the beleaguered Islamic state are now desperately trying to flee the region amid fears of persecution from the extremist group.
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