The Trump administration has drasticly cut the number of U.S. visas granted to Iraqis and Afghans who risked their lives assisting American soldiers.
Only 200 Iraqis were granted visas last year as part of a special visa program ― down from nearly 10,000 in 2016, NPR reported on Wednesday. The number of visas granted to Afghans as part of the special program ― which has become more complicated and stringent under Trump ― plummeted 60% to 1,649 in the 2018 fiscal year from the year before, according to a bipartisan letter from Congress last month.
The visa program was established by Congress to protect translators and others whose safety is imperiled because of their employment with the American military. But the Trump administration appears to be ignoring the needs of these allies, according to Adam Bates of the International Refugee Assistance Project.
“This administration is hostile to refugees,” Bates told NPR. “It would be impossible to say that these substantial drops are not a part of some policy. These are people who put themselves at risk because they served with U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Members of Congress said in the letter to Trump’s administration they were concerned by the “slow processing of visas for our Iraqi and Afghan wartime partners” and asked for an explanation of the declining numbers.
The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have said they are working to accelerate processing of the visas, NPR said.
A Washington Post op-ed in January urged the Trump administration to “not turn its back” on battlefield allies.
“The spirit of ‘if you stand by us, we will stand by you’ is being lost,” the op-ed read. “The president and Congress need to keep America’s word to its battlefield partners, approve new visas for Afghanistan this year and eliminate the backlogs.”