House to Vote to Allow More Afghans Interpreters to Immigrate to the U.S.

With Afghans who helped the U.S. military facing threats from the Taliban as American troops withdraw from the country, the House on Thursday was set to expand a visa program to allow them to more quickly immigrate to the United States.

The bill would expand the number of available special immigrant visas for Afghans to 19,000 from 11,000 and broaden the universe of people eligible for them by removing some application requirements.

“Many of us have expressed grave concerns about the challenges our allies face in navigating the application process,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the Administration Committee. “Afghans stepped forward to serve aside our brave military.”

Under the legislation, applicants would no longer have to provide a sworn statement that they faced a specific threat or proof that they held a “sensitive and trusted” job. Instead, the measure would in effect stipulate that any Afghan who helped the U.S. government by definition faces retribution, and should be able to apply for a visa.

The legislation, spearheaded by Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado and a former Army Ranger, has broad bipartisan support.

Its consideration comes as the Biden administration has announced plans to evacuate a group of Afghans who helped the United States during the 20-year war to an Army base in Virginia in the coming days. About 2,500 Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with American forces, as well as their family members, will be sent in stages to Fort Lee, Va., south of Richmond, to await final processing for formal entry into the United States, officials said.

With the American military in the final phases of withdrawing from Afghanistan, the White House has come under heavy pressure to protect Afghan allies who helped the United States and to speed up the process of providing them with special immigrant visas.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, said the Afghans have a “bull’s-eye on their back.”

“They will be killed if we don’t get them out of there,” Mr. McCaul said. “Please, Mr. President, get them out before they are killed.”

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