Stivers, colleagues seek Biden administration’s support of visas for Afghan, Iraqi civilians who aided U.S.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and a bipartisan group of congressmen expressed “unwavering support” for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghan and Iraqi civilians who assisted the United States in the Global War on Terrorism and seek continued support of the program from President Joe Biden.

“We request that you and your administration open regular lines of communication with Congress and non-governmental organizations that work with SIV applicants to have a constructive dialogue about best paths forward to support this program,” Rep. Stivers and his colleagues wrote in a Feb. 16 letter sent to the president. 

In a separate statement, Rep. Stivers noted that while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he could focus on his mission because of the support of his team, including the interpreters and support staff who served alongside U.S. military troops, diplomats, and government employees to advance the goal of peace in the region.

“When our team needed them most, our partners in the Middle East stood alongside American men and women in uniform to help defend their own country against extremists,” said Rep. Stivers. “Improving the SIV program is how we keep our promise to those who risked their lives, families, and homes.”

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the nation employed thousands of local Afghan and Iraqi translators, according to the lawmakers’ letter. “Unfortunately, these men, women and their families now face death threats from ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other hostile groups because of their service to the U.S. and our allies,” the members wrote.

Additionally, the SIV applicant backlog consists of nearly 17,000 Afghan interpreters (70,000 if eligible family members are included) and 100,000 Iraqis, while the processing times for applications also have slowed to an average wait time of three years, according to Rep. Stivers’ office. 

“The SIV program has had bipartisan support from Congress, previous administrations, prominent military leaders, diplomats, and national security experts,” Rep. Stivers and his colleagues wrote. “And while the program has provided refuge to some of our Afghan and Iraqi partners, there is more work to be done. Thousands of Afghans and Iraqis are still waiting for their visas to be processed.” 

Rep. Stivers and his colleagues, who included U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Earl Blumenaur (D-OR), told President Biden in their letter that they “stand ready to work with your administration to ensure that the Special Immigrant Visa program offers protection to the allies who served honorably alongside U.S. officials in Afghanistan and Iraq.”