MATSUI AND COLLEAGUES LEAD LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE RESETTLEMENT PROCESS FOR SPECIAL IMMIGRANT VISA HOLDERS

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 24, 2021 | George Hatamiya (916-201-5412)

WASHINGTON, D.C. ­– Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Jason Crow (D-CO) introduced the Afghan and Iraqi Allies Resettlement Improvement Act, which aims to help Special Immigration Visa (SIV) holders with their transition to life in the United States.

“The recent developments from Afghanistan have been heartbreaking for our Afghans allies, our nation and the Sacramento community. We are working around the clock to make sure we do everything in our power to evacuate our partners immediately and ensure we provide for them once they enter our communities,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “If we have learned anything in the past few months, it’s that we must be proactive in providing resources for the Special Immigrant Visa holders who have heroically helped Americans for the past 20 years abroad. This legislation would implement targeted reforms so we can begin to improve the resettlement process for SIV recipients and their families. We need to make sure that those who have sacrificed for our country have the resources for a comfortable quality of life in the United States.”

“As we work to evacuate our allies as quickly as possible, it’s also important to acknowledge that Afghan and Iraqi translators and guides are too often left behind once they arrive in the United States,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “They put their lives on the line serving alongside American servicemembers in dangerous conditions and our commitment to them doesn’t just end when they enter the United States. We have an obligation to ensure they have the resources for a safe and productive life here in America, which is what this bill would help do.”

“As we continue to draw down our military presence in Afghanistan and swiftly evacuate our allies, we have a moral obligation to ensure that Afghan and Iraqi men and women who risked their lives to help our country are able to comfortably transition to life in the U.S.,” said Congressman Nadler. “The Afghan and Iraqi Allies Resettlement Improvement Act will make important reforms to the SIV program and improves the resources available to recipients and their families as they undergo the resettlement process. I’m proud to join Rep. Matsui in this effort, and I hope we can send a bipartisan message to our Afghan and Iraqi allies that they are welcome here.”

“Congress recently provided $500 million through H.R. 3237, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, to support the swift evacuation of our Afghan allies,” said Congresswoman Lofgren. “We also made improvements to streamline the SIV application process, allowing Afghans to resettle in the United States faster. But getting our allies here is only the beginning. We must do more to ensure that those who served alongside our troops during periods of armed conflict receive the support and resources they need to not just live, but thrive, in the United States. The Afghan and Iraqi Allies Resettlement Improvement Act does just that. I hope, during this time of great need, that all my colleagues join Rep. Matsui in supporting this important legislation.”

“As a former Army Ranger, I might not be here today if it weren’t for the local translators and contractors I worked with in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Congressman Crow. “They put their lives on the line, with the understanding that the U.S. would be there for them. Our support doesn’t end once they arrive on American soil. The Afghan and Iraqi Allies Resettlement Improvement Act will help us fulfill our promise and ensure our allies can build comfortable, successful lives in America.”

The SIV program provides lawful U.S. permanent residence for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who are in danger due to their work assisting the U.S. government through service as translators, interpreters, or in other capacities. The Sacramento region alone has nearly 12,000 Afghan SIVs.

The Afghan and Iraqi Allies Resettlement Improvement Act would:

  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to survey SIV holders as part of their Annual Survey of Refugees.
  • Direct the Department of State to identify and implement additional ways to deliver information to SIV applicants about life in the United States to assist with their adjustment process.
  • Direct the Department of Defense and the Department of State to jointly establish and operate a program to offer employment to SIV holders as translators, interpreters, and cultural awareness instructors.

The legislation was endorsed by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP).

Text of the legislation can be found here.

The Afghan and Iraqi Allies Resettlement Improvement Act builds on a letter led by Congresswoman Matsui to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin regarding procedures and communications at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Congresswoman Matsui and her staff continue to leverage all available resources to help as many people as possible to safety in the country.

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