Press Releases

Hastings Urges Continued Prioritization of Special Immigrant Visa Program

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Fort Lauderdale, FL, October 30, 2015 | comments

Today, Congressman Hastings (D-FL) sent the below letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to continue prioritizing the processing of the Special Immigrant Visa applications. Please see below and attached a copy of the letter. Joining Hastings in signing the letter were Representatives (15): John Conyers, Jr., Jim McDermott, Zoe Lofgren, Earl Blumenauer, James P. McGovern, Michael M. Honda, Betty McCollum, Chris Van Hollen, Albio Sires, Peter Welch, David N. Cicilline, Lois Frankel, Ann McLane Kuster, Mark Takano, and Ted Lieu.

October 30, 2015

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
 
Dear Secretary Kerry,
 
We write to urge the Department of State to continue prioritizing the processing of Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for Iraqi and Afghan nationals formerly employed by or on behalf of the United States government. These individuals were vital to the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is our responsibility to bring them to safety within our borders.
 
As you know, two temporary SIV programs exist for these individuals and their dependents. Approximately 14,657 visas had been issued to Iraqi nationals and 11,826 to Afghan nationals between the dates of their inceptions through the end of FY2014. As of October 6, 2015, an estimated 2,150 visas were still available to Afghan principal applicants and 1,850 available for Iraqi principal applicants.
 
Those applying for SIVs have unfortunately found the process to be cumbersome, long, and complicated. Many of those lucky enough to be granted a visa waited for years for the process to be completed. For those whose applications are still pending, every day is still marred by uncertainty, fear, and fading hope.  According to a recent Joint Department of State/Department of Homeland Security Report, approximately 15,000 SIV applications for Iraqi and Afghan applicants and their dependents remain pending, at various stages of the application process.
 
While we understand the need to conduct appropriate security screenings on applicants, we remain cognizant that more must be done to process applications quickly and efficiently. We commend the steps taken by the Administration to reduce the amount of time required to apply and go through the SIV application process. Many anecdotal reports have highlighted abductions, attacks on, and even the murder of SIV applicants as they waited for approval for visas, highlighting the necessity for further improving the application process.  
 
President Obama’s administration, through the Department of State, recently announced that it would raise the threshold of refugees admitted into the United States next year. We applaud this decision and look forward to working with the administration to ensure that the United States does its part to take in refugees from around the world. At the same time, we must keep our commitments to the Iraqi and Afghan nationals who risked their lives in service to our country. We therefore urge you to allocate the necessary resources to quickly process pending SIV applications and to respond to future applications in a timely manner. We appreciate your prompt attention to our request and look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,
     
Alcee L. Hastings
Member of Congress 
  John Conyers, Jr.
Member of Congress 
     
Jim McDermott
Member of Congress
  Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress
     
Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress 
  James P. McGovern
Member of Congress 
     
Michael M. Honda
Member of Congress 
  Betty McCollum
Member of Congress 
     
Chris Van Hollen
Member of Congress 
  Albio Sires
Member of Congress 
     
Peter Welch
Member of Congress 
  David N. Cicilline
Member of Congress 
     
Lois Frankel
Member of Congress 
  Ann McLane Kuster
Member of Congress 
     
Mark Takano
Member of Congress 
  Ted Lieu 
Member of Congress 


Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.
 
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