Congressman Gonzalez Votes to Save Afghan Allies and Families
WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) voted in favor of H.R. 3985, the Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act. This critical, bipartisan bill increases the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) allotment by an additional 8,000 visas and also expedites the visa process.
“We have a moral obligation to protect those who have worked alongside our troops to defend freedom and democracy for the past twenty years,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “The ALLIES Act will help to expedite and expand the process to bring these brave Afghans and their families to safety. I am proud to vote for this bill and I hope to see it pass the Senate so we can fulfill our promises to our Afghan partners and friends.”
The Afghan SIV program allows Afghan nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government, the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or Resolute Support (RS) in support of the American mission in Afghanistan to seek lawful permanent residence in the United States.
The bill makes significant changes to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to improve visa processing and ensure that the lives of those who served side by side with American troops in Afghanistan are protected. Apart from adding 8,000 visas, the program also strengthens protections for surviving spouses and children of deceased SIV applicants, and streamlines SIV processing without compromising the strict background check and national security vetting procedures or other processes to confirm visa eligibility.
- The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program was created in 2009 to provide safety for Afghan interpreters, contractors, and security personnel who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan. The average U.S. Government processing time is 703 calendar days according to State Department statistics published this month.
- The bipartisan ALLIES Act is still needed even for those Afghans evacuated under Operation Allies Refuge. Once vulnerable applicants are evacuated to a third country, they must stay there until their SIV application is approved.
- Moreover, there are only approximately 10,000 visas available currently, far less than the 20,000 potentially eligible applicants currently in the pipeline. The ALLIES Act will streamline the process and allocate additional visas, without changing the security and vetting procedures, which will continue to be conducted.
More information is available here.
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