Advance Notice: Briefs

Meijer introduces bill increasing visas for Afghans fleeing the Taliban

By: - September 1, 2021 7:23 am

Demonstrators from the “Save Afghan Lives” protest chant as they march towards the U.S. Capitol shutting down Constitution Ave on August 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. | Liz Lynch/Getty Images

As the last round of troops left Afghanistan after 20 years this week, U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) introduced a bill alongside Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) increasing the cap for the number of Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) to be granted to Afghan interpreters and partners fleeing the now Taliban-controlled country.

The Showing American Values by Evacuating (SAVE) Afghan Partners Act of 2021 would increase the cap for special visas by 10,000 to go to interpreters and partners who have been employed through cooperative agreements and grants.

Peter Meijer

In a press release announcing the legislation, Meijer said that updating the language of the SIV requirements and expanding the cap of visas will “ensure that our allies are protected, and our promises are kept.”

“While the U.S. military is no longer present in Afghanistan, our mission there is not over,” Meijer said. “We still have thousands of interpreters and other Afghan partners who put themselves and their loved ones at risk now stranded in Afghanistan, and the chaotic and heartbreaking withdrawal that the world witnessed over the last few weeks shows just how vulnerable they still are.”

Crow also recognized the Afghan partners for helping the U.S. military in completing missions in Afghanistan and said they “did so with the understanding that if they stood with our soldiers, America would be a place where they could seek refuge.”

“The war may be over, but we can’t leave our friends and partners behind,” Crow said. 

In June, Meijer and Crow introduced legislation increasing the cap for Afghan SIVs by 8,000 while removing application requirements that would slow the application process. 

The pair introduced another piece of legislation earlier in the year that temporarily removed the medical examination requirement for SIV applicants. Both pieces of legislation were signed into law on July 30 as part of the Security Supplemental funding. 

The introduction of this legislation comes after Meijer flew unexpectedly with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul last week to witness the unfolding situation. 

The visit sparked outrage from officials within the State Department, Defense Department and the White House due to the lack of coordination with diplomats and military commanders on the ground in Kabul who were also already preoccupied with the evacuation of military personnel and Afghan allies. 

Meijer also told the Detroit News he’d consider impeaching President Joe Biden over the Afghanistan withdrawal, on the heels of his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which incensed GOP activists.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) said her team helped evacuate 114 Afghan nationals from Kabul, with many affiliated with Michigan State University.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that even without a U.S. Military presence in Afghanistan, they will work to evacuate foreign nationals, visa holders, at-risk Afghans from the now Taliban-controlled country.

In an address after pulling out the last round of troops in Afghanistan, Biden said his administration and other partners have already evacuated about 100,000 Afghans. 

“No country in history has done more to airlift out the residents of another country than we have done,” Biden said. “We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. And we’re far from done.”

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.