Special Immigrant Visa Reform Needs to Happen Now

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There has been a major issue with Afghan and Iraqi translators and their families being targeted and killed for working alongside the brave men and women that serve our country, with over 300 confirmed instances of this occurring. This has been due to the inefficiency of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The average wait time for a visa for these men and women is over 3 years.

There is currently a backlog of about 19,000 Afghan translators and other diplomats seeking SIV to resettle in the United States. There are an estimated 100,000 Iraqi translators in need as well. Undefined policy hinders the efficacy in processing these applicants. The Dod has yet to define who is recognized as a “foreign interpreter.” The Special Operations Association of America recommends the Committee move forward with the following actions.

  1. Direct the National Security Council to create a multi-agency fusion cell led by the Department of Defense to handle all SIV applications from those that worked with DoD entities. This is modeled by the FBI’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell.
  2. Introduce a comprehensive SIV program for 2,000 annual visas for foreign interpreters who serve alongside SOF and traditional units throughout the SOF area of operations.
  3. Recognize the sacrifices of our allies in the Global War on Terror by awarding SIV recipients with the Congressional Gold Medal.
  4. Direct the Department of Defense to define “foreign interpreter” as such:
    1. Foreign Interpreter — A local national (non-U.S. citizen) employed by the U.S. Government (USG) or USG contractor / sub-contractor to provide direct foreign cultural and language support in the form of spoken translation and/or written translation to USG personnel. An interpreter is eligible for the Department of State Special Immigrant Visa program upon at least (1) year of faithful and valuable service as recorded by a Letter of Employment containing dates of service and receipt of either a non pro forma General Officer Letter of Recommendation (LOR) / Certificate of Appreciation (CoA) or USG equivalent recognition. Also called a translator, combat translator, cultural advisor, or simply ‘terp.’ (JP 3-16, JP 6-0, JP 4-02, JP 3-33, JP 4-10, JP 3-24, JP 3-07.3, JP 1-0, JP 3-06)

Read the White Paper on this issue HERE!