AVA- Since 2007, the United States has awarded visas to Iraqi and Afghan citizens who risked their lives working for U.S. forces. Collectively known as the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, this effort has likely saved tens of thousands of former U.S. military interpreters from death at the hands of our enemies.
Yet Reuters reported recently that the Trump administration has added an additional layer of vetting that has all but choked off this lifeline to some of our most faithful friends.
The SIV program began as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006. Since then, it has been reauthorized numerous times. The requirements are stringent: Applicants must have completed at least two years of faithful service to U.S. forces and then undergo a 14-part application process. SIV recipients must demonstrate that because of their service to the United States, their lives are in ongoing and serious danger.
Due to bureaucracy and mismanagement, there has always been a backlog of SIV applicants: An estimated 17,000 Afghans and tens of thousands of Iraqis are waiting. In one notable case, an Iraqi donkey got far faster passage to America than an Afghan interpreter. But the sudden drop in SIV recipients is something new.
Risking US honor, credibility for no reason
The State Department has openly reported that as of Aug. 15, just 48 Iraqis had been brought to America under the SIV program this year. More than 3,000 were admitted last year and more than 5,000 in 2016.
According to the International Refugee Assistance Project, over the past nine months there has been a 90 percent drop in monthly SIV admissions.
The culprit appears to be a separate opaque process called Security Advisory Opinion administered by the FBI and intelligence agencies. The White House has not even publicly stated which countries SAOs are being applied to. Instead, the administration and its partisans issue rote calls about the need for “extreme vetting.”
The odds of an SIV recipient committing an act of terrorism are small. Since the inception of the program 11 years ago, more than 70,000 Iraqis and Afghans have received visas under standard SIV vetting. Just a single one attempted to join a terrorist group. The odds of an SIV recipient committing an act of terrorism are about six times lower than an American’s odds of being struck by lightning over a lifetime.
Nothing in life is risk-free, but the risk the SIV program poses to American security is extremely low. Far, far lower than the risks these interpreters took on behalf of American troops.
Immigration restrictionists often deride immigrants as benefit sponges who consume a disproportionate share of taxpayer resources. There is unfortunately little concrete data on the economic outcomes of SIV recipients. In the absence of data, anecdotal experience suggests that most are prospering and contributing to the economy of their new country. Some are even going back to war as linguists and cultural advisers for U.S. special operations forces.
Monday 10 September 2018 15:48