Hurd aims to put 4,000 immigrant visas in hands of U.S.-employed Afghans, Iraqis

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is among 29 cosponsors of a bipartisan bill that would make 4,000 visas available for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program.

“I am proud to join my colleagues today to introduce this bipartisan bill that protects these allies by ensuring that the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program continues to provide pathways to safety for those working in allegiance with the U.S.,” Rep. Hurd said on Friday.

Rep. Hurd on May 16 introduced the Afghan Allies Protection Act, H.R. 2796, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to support the Afghan and Iraqi allies who served alongside U.S. military troops, diplomats and government employees in their homelands.

“Our local Afghan and Iraqi partners have done critical work to assist U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have had our back, and we must continue to have theirs,” said Rep. Hurd, a former undercover CIA officer who served in Afghanistan.

Among the members joining Rep. Hurd as a cosponsor of H.R. 2796 are U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH).

If enacted, H.R. 2796 would amend the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 to increase the number of SIV program visas, according to the congressional record.

Rep. Hurd said that the federal government has employed thousands of Afghan and Iraqi allies to serve with U.S. troops, diplomats and other government employees since 2002, with many subsequently becoming targets of anti-American persecution and violence.

Congress created the SIV program to help protect Afghans and Iraqis, however, the applicant backlog has increased for years as Congress works to allot enough visas, he said.

H.R. 2796 also would require the U.S. State Department to report to Congress on the barriers that result in such a backlog, the congressman said.

The measure is under consideration by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.