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Visa program for Afghan interpreters is falling short

Most Floridians know that throughout the United States' long involvement in Afghanistan, local interpreters have provided a crucial service for US military personnel. Their work has been done at great personal risk: interpreters captured by the Taliban are known to face certain death.

In response to threats made against interpreters who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Congress created the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Over the last 2 1/2 years, the State Department has issued visas to more than 20,000 Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and their family members.

There are currently 7,000 remaining slots in the program, and the State Department is working through 10,000 applications for those slots. But, the program is set to end at the endo of this year.

The SIV program has been plagued with delays and former interpreters have met with mysterious denials of their visa applications. In some cases, there were vague security concerns, often caused by applicants having the same name as someone else.

In some cases, a private contractor to the US military claimed that the interpreters were fired for misconduct, claims that the interpreters dispute. And, some applicants have been denied with no explanation at all.

A recent story in the US Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes, told the harrowing stories of Afghan interpreters who are still waiting for their Special Immigrant Visas four or five years after applying. While they wait, they and their families are receiving regular death threats and beatings from the Taliban.

People whose lives are threatened because they aided the US military overseas should be able to come to the US through the SIV program or by seeking asylum. But, US Immigration law and the rules governing these programs are complex and strict. Immigration attorneys can help applicants navigate their way through the system.

Source: Stars & Stripes, "Former US interpreters worry Taliban will arrive before visa does," Heath Druzin, April 22, 2016

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