Afghans Who Worked for U.S. Are Told Not to Apply for Visas, Advocates Say - nytimes
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghans who worked for the American military and government are being told that they cannot apply for special visas to the United States, even though Afghanistan is not among the countries listed in President Trump’s new travel ban, according to advocates for Afghan refugees.
As of Thursday, Afghans seeking to apply for what are known as Special Immigrant Visas were being told by the American Embassy in Kabul, the capital, that applications would no longer be accepted, according to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire.
Officials at the embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It was unclear if the visa suspension was related to the president’s new ban, which, in addition to denying visas to citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries, also orders that the number of refugees allowed into America be cut by more than half, to 50,000 this year, from 110,000 in 2016.
Ms. Shaheen, along with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, has been a strong advocate of the Special Immigrant Visa program, meant for Afghans who face the threat of reprisal for their work with Americans. Its apparent suspension could affect as many as 10,000 applicants. “Allowing this program to lapse sends the message to our allies in Afghanistan that the United States has abandoned them,” Ms. Shaheen said in a statement.
Officials at the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York said they had learned that as of Thursday, Afghans were being told that applications were no longer being accepted, though the suspension had taken place on March 1. “Our worst fears are proving true,” said Betsy Fisher, the group’s policy director.
Mac McEachin, another official at the organization, said the decision could affect the 2,500 soldiers of the United States Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who might be deployed to Syria. “Now that the world has seen how we turn our backs on our Afghan allies, there is almost no chance that local allies in Syria will be inclined to work with us,” he said.
American military officials are also requesting an increase in troops deployed to Afghanistan. - More