Mast, colleagues request review of Special Immigrant Visa Program for Afghan civilians

Rep. Brian Mast

With the Biden administration planning to fully withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan this fall, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and a bipartisan contingent of his colleagues requested that the safety and security of the Afghan civilians who worked alongside them as interpreters, and their families, also be prioritized.

“During my time in Afghanistan, I worked alongside these interpreters every day and they were essential in accomplishing our mission,” Rep. Mast said on June 28. “This is about keeping our promises to them, but it’s also about ensuring that the global community knows we live up to our word.”

“Soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines rely on local partners, and without their confidence, the ability to defend America and promote democracy gets that much harder,” said the congressman. 

Rep. Mast and 71 of his colleagues, including U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), sent a June 25 letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that calls on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program to ensure its effective operations.  

“Throughout the course of the United States’ time there, we have worked alongside Afghan civilians in their efforts as interpreters, engineers, security guards, cultural advisors, and more,” the members wrote. “These Afghan civilians were critical to the United States’ mission in Afghanistan and must be included in our evacuation plan.”

For that reason, Rep. Mast and his colleagues requested that the secretaries immediately begin the process of reviewing the SIV Program to ensure that it has the necessary resources to operate effectively. 

“We learned from SIV recipients and service providers of some unnecessary delays in processing these applications,” according to their letter. “Immediately processing all pending applications should be a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security. This would provide an evacuation plan to some 17,000 Afghan civilians and their families who worked alongside our troops.”

“This is a case where red tape is literally life threatening,” Rep. Mast said in his separate statement. “The longer DHS  delays, the longer our allies, and their families, are in danger. We say ‘no man left behind,’ and the Biden administration needs to fulfill that promise.”