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Congress Acts to Extend, Expand Interpreter Visa Program

Interpreters who are seeking to leave Afghanistan as American forces are being pulled out got some help from the United States Senate Friday. The legislation grants an additional 1,000 visas as well.

According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the legislation passed the House and Senate unanimously. The State Department had, in the past, been criticized for dragging its feet to issue the visas to the interpreters, many of whom are facing threats from the Taliban. Other Afghans who have assisted the United States have also faced issues getting visas.

“A failure to provide these additional visas ensures the many brave translators the U.S. promised to protect in exchange for their service would be left in Afghanistan, hiding, their lives still threatened daily by the Taliban,” Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said in a statement.

Marines in Afghanistan with an interpreter.
(DOD photo)

Matt Zeller, who runs an advocacy group for interpreters called No One Left Behind, said, “The State Department ran out of visas for the first time ever in Afghanistan. It’s great but we need more.” Zeller had experienced difficulty bringing Janis Shinwari into the United States. Shinwari had fought alongside Zeller in a 2008 battle in Ghanzi Province, Afghanistan. A visa granted after a two-year effort by Zeller was briefly revoked in September 2013.

Other Afghans who have trouble getting visas include Hafez, an interpreter who fought alongside Medal of Honor recipients Dakota Meyer and Will Swenson in the Battle of Gangjal Valley, and Mohammad Gulab, the Pashtun tribesman who sheltered Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor of Operation Red Wings.