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Senators push for new visas for Afghans supporting US mission

Afghan Air Force pilots display their certificates after a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The six pilots are the first AAF Black Hawk pilots, which is part of a larger modernization program. The Afghan Air Force will more than double their fleet of aircraft over the next seven years. (Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce/U.S. Air Force)
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A bipartisan group of senators rolled out legislation Wednesday to provide 4,000 new visas for Afghans who have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, as Congress continues its battle with the Trump administration over immigration.

The legislation is needed because the Afghans, whose lives are in danger because of their service, are facing new roadblocks put in place by President Donald Trump to attain visas, said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who sponsoring the plan.

Shaheen added she was concerned by reports the administration has drastically reduced the distribution of such visas through the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa and Iraqi Direct Access programs.

“Afghan civilians continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Americans in the battlefield at tremendous risk to the safety and welfare of their families,” Shaheen said. “Their service in support of our military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan has saved American lives and we have an obligation to provide sanctuary from terrorist threats.”

The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2019 would provide the 4,000 visas by the end of fiscal year 2019, which ends Sept. 30. It also addresses new administrative obstacles put in place that prevent Afghan and Iraqi allies from receiving visas.

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Shaheen has been joined by Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., to launch the legislation. All are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Shaheen has worked on the Afghan visa effort for several years alongside the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who died in August.

“Any failure to uphold our nation’s promise to these brave men and women, jeopardizes local support in future missions,” Shaheen said in a statement. “As a nation, we must be true to our word, and Congress can do its part by making sure enough visas are consistently made available. I’m very pleased that, once again, this effort will be on a bipartisan basis.”

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© 2019 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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