In a letter to U.S. Senate leadership and appropriators, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand successfully urged the Committee to allocate emergency supplemental funding to support and protect Afghan allies who assisted U.S. Armed Forces during the United States’ twenty-year military engagement overseas. She has continuously been a staunch advocate for protecting Afghan civilians who risked their lives to support U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan and called for the immediate expansion of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The emergency supplemental bill passed the Senate by a vote of 98-0, which includes a wide array of humanitarian support and assistance for Afghans, including funding for the Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, and the Department of State.
“I am extremely proud of and dedicated to supporting the Afghan men and women who risked everything to assist the United States military and protected our service members overseas,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The United States is bound by duty to protect these Afghans and their families.”
Details on the humanitarian support and assistance for Afghan refugee agreement can be found below:
- Department of Defense—$500 million in Department of Defense Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid to provide emergency transportation, housing, and other essential services to Afghan partners leaving the country. The Departments of Defense and State are currently coordinating on efforts to support these Afghans and their families, and additional funds are provided to State for similar purposes.
- Department of Health and Human Services—$25 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide assistance to Afghans granted special immigration status once they have arrived in the United States. This funding will support transitional financial, medical, and social services, such as medical screenings and housing assistance, to help this population resettle in the United States.
- Department of State—$600 million for refugee and migration assistance and to improve and strengthen the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, specifically:
- Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance – $500 million to provide emergency transport, temporary housing, and other basic services for Afghans who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas after serving as translators and in other capacities for the U.S. military.
- Migration and Refugees – $100 million for assistance for Afghan refugees in neighboring countries and for other humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. The UN currently estimates that 500,000 Afghans will flee their homes in the coming months, and potentially many more. While Special Immigrant Visas offer safety to a portion of those whose lives are at risk, others – including teachers, scholars, female students, judges, and soldiers, and civil society leaders – are in jeopardy after participating in U.S. government programs, and can only seek asylum if they are refugees in a third country.
- Afghan Special Immigrant Visas – The legislation would provide immediate improvements and strengthen efficiency of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program by:
- Increasing the number of authorized visas by 8,000;
- Changing the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year;
- Postponing the required medical exam until the applicant and their family have arrived safely in the United States;
- Removing the “sensitive and trusted” requirement for International Security Assistance Force and Resolute Support employment; and
- Providing for Special Immigrant status for certain surviving spouses and children of murdered applicants.
Earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand announced her bipartisan effort to help protect Afghan civilians who risked their lives to support U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan. The Afghan Allies Protection Act, introduced by Senator Shaheen (D-NH), would increase the number of authorized Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), remove extraneous paperwork requirements, and improve the program’s efficiency as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
To read the full letter, click here.