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U.S. Senator Vows To Revive Lapsed Visa Program For Afghan Asylum-Seekers

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (file photo)

A U.S. senator is vowing to revive a lapsed special-visa program for Afghan interpreters and others who served U.S. forces in the country, often risking their lives.

The U.S. State Department said on March 9 that it is running out of special-visa slots and stopped scheduling interviews on March 1.

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said allowing the program to lapse sends a message to allies in Afghanistan that they have been "abandoned." She pledged to immediately introduce legislation to provide more visas.

"It's both a moral and practical imperative that Congress right this wrong immediately," Shaheen said.

She estimated that more than 10,000 applicants are still waiting for visas.

Shaheen and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain led an unsuccessful effort last year to pass legislation extending the special visas to another 4,000 Afghans who assisted U.S. forces.

The National Defense Authorization Act passed late last year instead added 1,500 visas while making it more difficult to qualify.

The Afghan visa announcement came within days of President Donald Trump issuing a new executive order to temporarily ban refugees and some travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries. But Afghanistan was not one of the six.

With reporting by Reuters
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