DES MOINES, Iowa – Congress passed a bill that includes a bipartisan measure that U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, cosponsored to protect the United States’ Afghan allies.
Ernst is the lead Republican cosponsor of the Afghan Allies Protection Act and the bill that included that language passed in the Senate by a 98 to 0 vote and then in the House hours later by a 416 to 11 vote.
Ernst’s measure, cosponsored with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., would expedite efforts to improve and increase the number of visas extended to Afghans who assisted the U.S. during the War on Terror.
Its passage became more urgent upon the Biden Administration’s announcement that it will pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by August 31.
The bill increased the number of visas to 8,000 and changed the employment eligibility for the Special Afghan Immigrant Visa program from two years to one. It also postpones the required medical exam until the applicant and their family have arrived in the United States.
The measure also broadens the visa program eligibility to Afghans who provided military logistics support, alongside translators and others supporting sensitive and trusted U.S. military operations, and provides special immigrant status for certain surviving spouses and children of murdered applicants.
“The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program was created to provide a well-vetted pathway to safety for the many Afghan civilians who have stepped up to assist the U.S. during the War on Terror. Given the Biden Administration’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan, we must now fulfill our commitment to those who put themselves in harm’s way by ensuring the program has the capacity to fully process and help bring these individuals to safety. I’m grateful Democrats and Republicans came together to do exactly that,” Ernst said.
U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, who cosponsored similar bills in the House, reacted to the House approval of the Senate bill.
“It would be a moral failure to transfer the responsibility of protecting our partners onto the shoulders of the Afghan government. As our troops leave Afghanistan, we must ensure that there are not unnecessary and burdensome requirements in place which keep the U.S. from honoring our promises. I was proud to cosponsor and vote in favor of the HOPE for Afghans Act and the ALLIES Act, and I was honored to vote in favor of our allies once again. Our partners risked their own lives and the lives of their families to fight alongside and support American soldiers, and I am thrilled to see them getting the help they need,” she said in a released statement.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill.