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Congress Rushes to Help Afghans Seeking Visas for Helping U.S.

  • June 19, 2021

To varying degrees, the Special Immigrant Visa has been plagued by chronic delays and logjams for more than a decade. Mr. Crow said the problem had been made worse by former President Donald J. Trump, who he said had starved the program of resources and staff, and then the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down in-person interviews and vetting.

A January State Department report citied “limited staffing” and “local safety conditions directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic” as “severely” impacting the visa application process.

Mr. Crow and Mr. Wenstrup have introduced a variety of measures, including the one this week, aimed at speeding up the process. A separate bill they wrote would waive the requirement for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants to undergo medical examinations. There is only one clinic in the country that does the examinations — a German facility in Kabul — requiring some translators travel far through sometimes dangerous conditions. And the exams are quite expensive, Mr. Crow said.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, and Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, have introduced yet another measure to expand the number of visas available by 4,000. To date, about 15,000 visas have been approved since the program began, but only about 11,000 are still available — a number the lawmakers say falls far short of the need.

“It has been mind-numbing: the foot-dragging, the lack of coordination,” Mr. Blumenauer said. “It’s been incredibly frustrating. As a country, we have not fulfilled our responsibilities.”

They have found support in the other chamber from Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa and a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire. The pair has written to the Biden administration calling for an expansion of the program by 20,000 visas and a resolution to the bureaucratic issues causing the backlog.

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