John Oliver’s new HBO show, Last Week Tonight, is quickly making a name for itself by offering a candid, intelligent take on many of the shocking issues facing our country. This Sunday was no different when he highlighted the plight of the translators we’ve left behind in Afghanistan.
During the war in Afghanistan our forces have been ably and loyally assisted by Afghan nationals. Now that we are leaving, these brave allies face a mortal threat from the Taliban and other forces who wish to do them harm because of their service to the United States.
They are relying on us to uphold our commitment to return their loyalty. Now that time has come. Many of these individuals are seeking to escape the dangers that face them in a post-American Afghanistan by relocating to the United States.
The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program provides visas to those who we owe an extraordinary debt. For a number of years, however, this program suffered from administrative neglect, and the visa process was hardly functional.
In the past year, however, important improvements have been made to the processing system and many more of our Afghan allies are being admitted to the United States. Among them is a remarkable man named Janis Shinwari, who served as translator alongside U.S. troops and saved the life of U.S. Army Captain Matt Zeller, with whom he now has a lifelong bond.
Matt and Janis have campaigned tirelessly to ensure that we do not leave our allies behind. I’m proud to call Janis a member of my staff in my District Office in Alexandria where he continues to hear the desperate stories of his fellow translators who are in great peril and desperately seek to leave Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, and as John pointed out on his show, it’s been easier to get a donkey out of Afghanistan than our brave translators. Sadly there are no visas left for the many deserving Afghans we have left in administrative limbo.
I am an original cosponsor of legislation to extend 1,000 emergency visas necessary to continue the work the State department has done of late, allowing our allies to escape a dangerous situation. It is a critical stopgap measure that sadly only scratches the surface of the problem.
We must stand by our friends, and ensure that those would work with us in future conflicts know that they will not be abandoned.