Editor’s note: The Trump administration’s executive order temporarily suspends the main U.S. refugee program and halts visas being issued to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq. The following Spokesman-Review editorial appeared on Aug. 12, 2015.
There may be no agreement on appropriate U.S. policy in the Middle East, but Republicans and Democrats were unified when they voted overwhelmingly a year ago (2014) to renew and expand the Special Immigration Visa program.
Visa recipient Wahid Kashify, profiled in The Spokesman-Review, is among the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis who put themselves at risk by interpreting for U.S. military forces and, in cases like his, taking up arms to defend them.
As we wound down our military presence in those countries, more and more were exposed to retaliation by the Taliban, al-Qaida, and any number of groups and individuals who would kill them for their cooperation.
Even family members reject them.
Many were killed and, although SIVs were authorized in 2008, the deaths continue because of the usual bureaucratic foot-dragging and extreme concern that one of the thousands of young men who might be admitted could be a terrorist. Awards and testimonials for Kashify and men and women like him often fail to overcome the paranoia.
Yet, notes World Relief Spokane Director Mark Kadel, those who receive an SIV are among the most heavily vetted U.S. immigrants. And, with their language skills, they are among those who most readily assimilate into American culture: They get jobs, send their kids to school and pursue more education for themselves.
Along with an SIV comes a green card that puts holders on a five-year track to citizenship.
Kashify is taking criminal justice courses at Spokane Community College. He plans to apply what he learns in Afghanistan, where he would again expose himself and his family to possible violence. An attack Friday on a police academy in Kabul illustrates the peril of his career choice.
We wish Kashify and his family the best no matter his ultimate destination. He is among the relative few who have options.
A recent United Nations report found refugee numbers globally exceed 59 million, the highest number since records began.
Special Immigration Visas are a lifesaver still denied to many who befriended Americans despite the danger to themselves. Deserving recipients have had to sue for their visas; and hope the courts act before, say, the Islamic State group does.
As a Spokane native and former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker wrote in the Washington Post a year ago: “Taking care of those who took care of us does not mean doing them a favor. It means acting on fundamental American values.”
We’re acting, but too slowly.
To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”
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