Guest Column

Forgotten Soldiers: Why Congress Must Authorize an Emergency Expansion of the Afghan SIV Program


Congressional inaction to authorize visas for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program has recently resulted in America breaking its promise of safety to thousands of Afghan interpreters and aides who risked their lives to assist US troops and diplomates. Such short-sighted policy undermines both our moral and national security imperatives.  It is morally reprehensible to abandon already vetted allies who are now at risk of persecution or death in their home countries. Furthermore, if this policy becomes emblematic of how the U.S. treats its allies, it will surely become more difficult to find people who will work with us in future conflicts, thereby putting our troops at greater risk. It is incumbent upon Americans to voice their support for the immediate authorization of more visas for the SIV program.

The at –risk and Afghans who will suffer from the loss of the SIV program are already vetted allies, who go through another extreme vetting process to gain resettlement. The SIV program was signed into law in 2009 under the Afghan Allies Protection Act and qualifies Afghan nationals for permanent residence in the United States if they served as interpreters or in other mission-critical roles for the U.S. for at least two years between 2001 and 2016. SIV applicants begin the process by seeking sponsorship from the U.S. embassy in Kabul and must obtain a letter of recommendation from a U.S. service member. The applicant undergoes rigorous background checks conducted by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as well as multiple  interviews at the embassy to corroborate the accuracy of their application and argue that they, and many times their families, face a serious threat to their lives because of their service to the United States.

Tragically, the requirement for SIV applicants to establish a serious and imminent threat of persecution due to his or her service to America often becomes a self-executing fact. As the U.S. military’s drawdown in Afghanistan continues, Afghan interpreters returning home from base are met not by peace, but retaliation by local Taliban fighters in the form of assassinations, kidnapping, maiming, and harassment. There are countless stories of former interpreters even being outed by their neighbors and forced to flee like fugitives in their own country. With the average waiting period from application to decision currently at 410 days (State Dept. 2017) and in many cases much longer, applicants are forced to live in constant fear with every passing day.

Sign Up for E-News

It is not only our moral duty as Americans to uphold our promise of helping those who protected our own in battle, but maintaining the SIV program is also vital to our national security interests. When the time comes again for American soldiers to deploy in a conflict abroad, they will be stripped of credibility in their attempts to recruit necessary native interpreters to help with understanding the land and gathering local intelligence. If America cannot demonstrate to the world that it will do the right thing by taking in those that risk their safety for our soldiers, the country will find itself alone in critical moments.

For those who question the loyalty and indispensableness that these native interpreters have demonstrated, one need look no further than the reports of countless U.S. veterans who fought alongside them. In a stunning piece, The New Yorker recently recounted 1st Lt. Matt Zeller’s harrowing story of being saved by an Afghani interpreter, Mr. Janis Shinwari, who voluntarily joined the rescue mission that extracted the lieutenant and his outgunned crew that was struck by a roadside IED in 2008. In the end, America kept good on its promise to grant Mr. Shinwari American citizenship, but not without years of delay throughout his SIV process, relentless advocacy by 1st. Lt. Zeller and narrow escapes from Taliban retaliation. 

Congress has the opportunity and obligation to remedy this horrifying scenario. We urge you to call your local U.S. representative or senators office and demand that they join their colleagues Senators John McCain and Jeanne Shaheen, and Representative Adam Kinzinger, in co-sponsoring legislation that would authorize an emergency infusion of visas to the program. 

For more information, please visit the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) at


The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Sparta Police: Car Crash Leads to Warrant Arrest

March 20, 2018

SPARTA, NJ –  A car going too fast for the snowy road conditions crashed on Route 15.  No one was injured in the one car crash but the driver, Melvin Pineda-Castro of Plainfield, 27, was taken into custody.  On March 13 around 6:30 a.m. Sparta Police Officer Ben Griffin arrived at the scene, according to police.

Pineda-Castro had lost control of his black Honda CRV, hit ...

Sparta Police: Failure to Keep Right Ends with Two in Jail

SPARTA, NJ – Two people from Dingman’s Ferry are facing charges for drugs and other issues after a traffic stop on Route 15.  On March 16 around 12:45 a.m. Cpl. Marc Rubino stopped Cory Parker, 34, for failing to keep right, police report.

The officer smelled raw marijuana when speaking with Parker in the red four door Ford.  The passenger, 35-0year-old Lindsey Hutchinson ...

Sparta Police Pick Up Franklin Woman Driving While Suspended

SPARTA, NJ – A traffic stop yielded an arrest for driving with a suspended license for a Franklin woman.  On March 13 around 11:30 p.m. Sparta Police Officer Timothy Lynott stopped Christina Bradford on Route 15 for having a broken tail light on her gray GMC pickup, police report.

When the officer checked her credentials, he found Bradford’s license had been suspended and she ...

5 Tips for elected officials

March 9, 2018

Dear Editor,

Wayne Levante, a self-described moderate, business-friendly mayor of Newton since his appointment 8 months ago, has been mired by one misstep and controversy after another.  From peddling debunked conspiracy theories about student “crisis actors” in the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting on social media, attacking residents and calling them ...


March 11, 2018



Republican Freeholder Candidates, Dawn Fantasia and Josh Hertzberg commended the District 24 Legislators for taking action in the wake of the horrific school shooting that took the lives of 17 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.   


Senator Oroho, Assemblyman Space and ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, March 24, 9:30 AM

Sparta Recreation Department, Sparta

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, March 24, 10:30 AM

Dykstra Park, Sparta

UNICO Easter Egg Hunt

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, March 24, 6:00 PM

McKenna Hall, Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Sparta

Night with NJ Giants #53 Harry Carson Beefsteak


Sat, March 24, 6:00 PM

Perona Farms, Sparta

Trout Unlimited Annual Fund Raising Banquet

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, April 8, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River



Fri, April 13, 5:00 PM

Sparta High School Auditorium, Sparta

2nd Annual Jazz Festival at Sparta High School

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, April 14, 9:00 AM


Jr Lions Football - Meet & Greet

Education Sports

Sun, April 22, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River


Newton’s Spring Street Turned Green for a Day for St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March 19, 2018

NEWTON, NJ—Despite the semi-chilly weather, residents from Newton, Sparta, Andover, Green, and all over Sussex County gathered on Spring Street, dressed in green for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

This year was Sussex County’s 15th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and had over 941 people marching in it, 79 vehicles, six floats and about 45 animals.

The ...

6 Easy Ways to Increase Zzzz’s During National Sleep Awareness Month and Beyond!

Team Nest Builder knows sleep deprivation leads to a myriad of problems, so we’re here to help you make your New Jersey home bedrooms the havens you deserve! Take a look at these simple ideas for increasing your zzzzz’s:

Soften Up

Employ a large area rug that covers the entire room to help absorb sound and enhance comfort.

Feeling Blue

According to a study by Travelodge, ...

4 Top Reasons NOW Is A Great Time To Buy A New Jersey Home

Team Nest Builder offers four great reasons to consider buying a home today instead of waiting:

Prices Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices appreciated by 6.6% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.3% over the next year.  The bottom in home prices came and left. Home values will ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


Atlantic Health System's Dr. Jan Schwarz-Miller Named A CMO to Know for 2018

March 20, 2018

Atlantic Health System, an integrated health care delivery system, is proud to announce that, Jan Schwarz-Miller, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical and Academic Officer, Atlantic Health System, was named to Becker’s Hospital Review’s 100 Hospital and Health System CMOs to Know 2018.

Dr. Schwarz-Miller, was appointed to her current role almost two years ago. Prior to that, ...