No1LeftBehind86 karma2017-10-31 23:19:29 UTC
Congress needs to pass a law allocating enough visas to cover all applicants. Currently, they have only allocated enough visas to cover 2,000 of the remaining 14,000 applicants. Moreover, Congress should declare once and for all that the Special Immigration Visa Program is tied to the formal end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - i.e. when we aren't militarily engaged and in need of their people to translate for us. Currently, the program must be authorized every few years. In the most recent years, we barely succeeded in convincing the more conservative members of Congress on the merit and need for this program.
Additionally, Congress and the President could go the extra mile and declare our wartime allies to be "honorary veterans" of the United States.
These men and women have served our country with the same valor as my fellow soldiers.. Veterans status is earned through service to our country, not placement in the birth lottery. Just because Janis was born in Afghanistan, doesn’t make his eight years of combat service any less honorable than my one tour. In fact, I’d argue, he’s the real veteran between the two of us. I got to come home at the end of my tour. He went on to the next unit and the next mission.
If we are going to continue our commitment to Afghanistan, I believe two things must occur. Congress must make the SIV program permanent. Currently, it must be reauthorized annually, and, in years past, we’ve nearly lost it.
Moreover, Congress should declare the Afghan and Iraqi wartime allies who fought with us to be “Honorary Veterans.”
Granting Honorary Veteran status to Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients and Priority 2
Refugee Admissions Program recipients will give the private sector the option to provide support to this population. Right now there are 56,000 501(c)3 organizations who work to support veterans, and many are interested in also supporting those wartime allies who stood with us in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Importantly, declaring our Afghan and Iraqi wartime allies as "Honorary Veterans" will NOT:
• Take away any benefits from veterans already in place
• Give them any VA or GI Bill benefits
• Give them priority in any way over U.S. born veterans
Matt: I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve tried to enlist other veteran organizations to help No One Left Behind in our mission to resettle our wartime allies only to be told, “Well, we can’t assist you because they’re not technically veterans.” Yet, no less than General Pete Chiarelli, former Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said, these brave people were “just as much a soldier as I am" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yISst0dbQ_g&t
Thankfully, we have some movement around the "Honorary Veterans" provision.
To date we have received endorsements from:
Here is the link to our recent Fox News interview with Pete Hegseth and Abby Huntsman:
Bipartisan Senate resolution would help combat translators
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No1LeftBehind40 karma2017-10-31 23:05:41 UTC
Janis: He was a guest in my country. It was my duty to protect him. He came from the other side of the planet to help our people be free of the Taliban. We had to help the Americans and do all we could to keep them safe.
Matt: Sadly, in our current climate, too many (one is too many in my opinion) Americans don't realize who these people are (the translators from Afghanistan and Iraq) and what they've done to help us. All they see is a Muslim and they think that also means "terrorist." This view is most often held by people who've never met an Afghan or an Iraqi, let alone served in a war with them. I find these views disgusting. To those of us who served with heroes like Janis, these men and women are our fellow veterans. We should be doing all we can to save them from being murdered by the very people we asked them to help us fight.
Another all too common view is that many of these people are totally safe remaining in their own countries. By serving the Americans, these people have fundamentally excommunicated themselves from the society around them - they are hunted not just by our common enemies, but often by their fellow citizens who've come to view them as American spies.
Both: If we don't honor this promise now, we won't have allies in future wars. We just got done watching Ken Burns' excellent The Vietnam War documentary. We were struck by the final episode's 20+ min covering the experience of evacuating Saigon and leaving behind over 250,000 of our Vietnamese allies. Many of them were never heard from again. What's different about then and now, was there's no real news footage or video of what happened to those we left behind in Vietnam. We were never confronted with the visual evidence of our abandonment. Today, that won't be the case. Our enemies all have cell phones that can upload a HD quality video to the internet within seconds. They are using these cell phones to make snuff films where they execute our Afghan and Iraqi wartime allies. Before they kill our brothers and sisters, they make them confess to working with the Americans and explain on camera that that is why they are about to die. Then they butcher them. These videos are designed to send the following message to future populations who may consider working with the Americans: allying with the Americans is a death sentence - they will abandon you to us. Should that message become the prevailing narrative that the US encounters around the world, we will find ourselves without any allies.
One of our board members is Jan Scruggs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Scruggs). He's warned us that should we fail to keep this promise, our current generation of veterans will suffer the moral injury suffered by Vietnam veterans who have had to live with a half-century of guilt surrounding the fates of those we left behind.
Thankfully, all of this can be prevented, by honoring our promise now and ensuring we grant the visas that Afghans and Iraqis have earned and help them start their new lives in America. This is honestly a "Never Again" moment in the making. Should we fail to keep this promise, tens of thousands will likely die and we will one again inevitably at some sad date in the future collectively mutter "what a shame, we should really resolve to never again let that happen." Or we can prevent it from ever occurring by keeping our nation's promise. All we need is the courage and conviction to do the right thing.
No1LeftBehind28 karma2017-01-28 15:39:28 UTC
Mica: There are have been many, many failings. I will let Matt give a longer answer as he has been calling Congressmen and yelling at them for longer than I have. There are a few primary issues:
Early on, the Special Immigrant Visa program did not have any requirement for how quickly they processed cases or whether they processed cases at all. They could take as long as they wanted, and had no obligation to provide any reason why they refused cases if they chose to. Around that time, there was a US official who believed that if we gave everyone working with the US visas, there would be nobody left to rebuild the country. Here's the problem: our guys who are left behind, they are not able to even leave their homes the threats are so severe. They aren't running for parliament - they do not have the financial or political resources to take over the country. Many of them started working for the military at 17. Since then, we have advocated for changes that were implemented that requires applications to be processed within two years, and requires that denied applicants be told the reason why they were being denied and given the chance to appeal as the application can be nearly impossible for an American to fill out in their native language, let alone filled out by a non native English speaker.
Islamophobia. Today they are being banned under the guise of vetting. One of the guys who did a live video for us yesterday is this guy, our friend Rock: https://www.change.org/p/united-states-save-rock-an-afghan-interpreter-who-served-with-us-special-forces
It took the US State department/CIA/FBI/Department of Homeland Security 7 years to complete all the background checks associated with his case. To tell these guys today "We're sorry, after 5 years of vetting you, you aren't vetted enough" is simply absurd. Matt also likes to say that these guys didn't just walk up to the base in Afghanistan and shout "We speak English, let us in!" They were vetted thoroughly before starting work. They had their phones tapped. They had their e-mails read. Matt was the intelligence officer on his base - he was the guy reading their mail.
There are so many people who hear "Afghan" or "Iraqi" and assume that they are scary Muslims. Our clients don't want to join ISIS or the Taliban, they fought against them on the front lines! If we want to fight Islamic extremists, what better group than Muslims who can quote the Qu'ran and who have bled for the United States? They are Muslims who can argue against the ideology that ISIS and the Taliban is sharing and who have thoroughly demonstrated their commitment to our country and our troops.
Unfortunately, there are some politicians who believe or represent conservative areas who hear Muslim and assume they're bad. And it's unfortunate because a handful of prejudiced individuals are leading to a lot of pain, hardship, and deaths.
Edit: This has been a historically bipartisan issue and this is still the case. Both Ambassador Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson stated in their confirmation hearings that they supported this program. We hope that the current consequences of the executive order are an oversight that we can get corrected.
Editx2: Matt is currently confirming another family (an Afghan interpreter family) detained at customs so his response will likely be delayed.
No1LeftBehind27 karma2017-10-31 23:31:57 UTC
Janis has a movie about his life currently in development.
No1LeftBehind21 karma2017-01-28 19:20:45 UTC
We are not exactly sure what you mean by your comment. The Special Immigrant Visa program for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters has existed for fewer than 10 years. This is the first time it has been halted by a President.
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