At the end of last week, seven senators put their names to a letter addressed to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano inquiring about the fate of the Special Immigrant Visa program that was instituted in 2008 to help Iraqis that have faced or continue to face threats because of their work with the U.S.
From the beginning the program has been fraught with problems and mired in bureaucracy. Its goal was to provide 25,000 special immigrant visas at the pace of 5,000 a year for five fiscal years from 2008 onwards. That mark has fallen incredibly short of its goal, and fewer than 4,000 of these visas have been issued to date, reflecting the low priority that the program has been given in Washington.
Recently, the pace of awarding visas to Iraqis has slowed almost to a halt, with only 154 principle applicants receiving a visa during this fiscal year. This has been attributed to new DHS procedures instituted around the beginning of this year, as well as the arrest of two Iraqi refugees in Kentucky on terrorism charges in May, both of which have resulted in increased and prolonged security checks for those Iraqis awaiting entry into the U.S.
The senators, among them ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee John Kerry and Richard Lugar, asked that several questions associated with the slow intake of these Iraqis be cleared up in an unclassified response. Below is an excerpt of the letter:
The Iraqis assisted by this program and other SIV programs risked their lives to help protect and assist the servicemen and women, diplomats, and other governmental and non-governmental entities that supported the U.S. mission in Iraq. Delays in processing are leaving these Iraqis and their families vulnerable to retaliation, including death, for their service to the United States. As the U.S. military presence is reduced in the coming months, this population may face an even greater risk.
The List Project applauds the senators’ letter and hopes that they continue to inquire on the fate of those Iraqis that have sacrificed so much to help the United States in Iraq.
A full text of the letter can be found here
Senators Request Information About Special Immigrant Visa Program Backlogs – Press release from the website of Senator Patrick Leahy