WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA) voted for the Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act, legislation that would protect our Afghan partners who served alongside our troops in combat and will streamline the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan.
“I am proud to represent Sacramento County, home to the largest population of Afghan immigrants in the entire country, many whom are SIV recipients who bravely risked their own safety to serve alongside our troops in combat,” said Representative Bera. “With the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan nearly complete, we must move with rapid urgency to protect our remaining partners, or else they risk being hunted down and killed by the Taliban. Today, Congress is taking bipartisan and concrete actions to provide safety and refuge for our Afghan friends who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our men and women in uniform.”
Representative Bera continued: “But we still have much more work to do. The Senate must pass the ALLIES Act and it must be quickly signed into law. I will continue to work in Congress to support the Biden Administration’s efforts in Operation Allies Refuge to ensure we honor or remaining commitments to our Afghan partners, including safely evacuating our partners out of the country and working through the severe backlog in SIV applications. There’s simply no time to spare.”
Since its creation in 2009, the Afghan SIV program has provided refuge for thousands of Afghan interpreters, doctors, contractors, and security personnel who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan. However, the program has been plagued with chronic delays and severe backlogs, with the processing of application taking up to ten years.
The ALLIES Act would increase the Afghan SIV cap by an additional 8,000 visas and remove redundant and burdensome application requirements that slow down the application process without impacting national security. The legislation would also offer protection to the surviving spouses and children of SIV applicants who were killed as a result of their service to the United States.
Representative Bera has been a strong advocate for our Afghan partners and the SIV program. In March 2021, Bera wrote a letter to President Biden urging the Administration to address the urgent need to work through the SIV backlog that was exacerbated by COVID-19. Bera penned a bipartisan op-ed with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) urging the Biden Administration to expedite the backlog in the SIV program, and consider evacuating SIVs out of Afghanistan to a secure location. In May 2021, Rep. Bera hosted a roundtable with Sacramento-area SIV recipients to hear their stories and update them on his efforts to support the lifesaving SIV program.
Rep. Bera is also a founding member of the bipartisan ‘Honoring our Promises’ Working Group focused on ensuring we honor our promises to our Afghan friends and partners in the final days of the Afghan conflict.
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