In July, Republican Rep. Chip Roy (TX-21) voted against a bill designed to expedite the immigration process for Afghans who allied with the United States. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support and Roy was one of only 16 members, all Republicans, to vote no. He was also the only member of the Texas congressional delegation to do so.
With the rapid fall of the country to the Taliban, tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted the United States, as well as their families, are now at risk. These Afghan allies filled key support roles during America’s longest war, primarily acting as interpreters. This was hardly an unforeseen problem, as advocates have been warning about the danger to Afghan allies for years. Indeed, there were over 300 documented instances of Afghan interpreters or their family members being killed by insurgents and terrorists even before the American withdrawal.
The crux of the problem is that the program to allow Afghan allies to come to the United States was overly cumbersome and bureaucratic. The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) consisted of an unwieldy 14-step process, with an average wait time of more than 900 days. While these issues should have been fixed years ago, the impending U.S. withdrawal created a new sense of urgency around SIVs.
To fix the problem, former Army Ranger and Afghanistan veteran Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) introduced the Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act. The bill increased the number of Afghan SIVs from 11,000 to 19,000, strengthened protections for surviving spouses and children of deceased SIV applicants, and streamlined the process by eliminating redundant paperwork and adjusting the requirements. “For twenty years, Afghan interpreters, guides, and other partners have served alongside U.S. forces, helping us complete our mission,” said Crow. “I may not be here today were it not for the bravery and sacrifice of the Afghan men and women who worked with me during my service.”
After voting against the ALLIES Act, Roy stated that his opposition was due to an amendment that “expands the program to include nonprofits and grantees, private organizations that contributed to the United States mission in Afghanistan.” Yet NGOs often performed important work in cooperation with the U.S. military, and now many Afghans who worked for NGOs are at risk in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
This is not the first time Roy has voted no on otherwise bipartisan legislation. In March of last year, he voted against COVID relief not once, but twice. He was also one of only 14 House Republicans to vote against making Juneteenth a national holiday.Roy has joined the chorus of Republicans sharply criticizing President Joe Biden’s handling of the withdrawal. Yet the GOP politicians had a hand in the creation of this tragedy as well, and their role cannot be forgotten as they try to turn Afghanistan into a partisan talking point.
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