For the past few days I’ve been trying to raise awareness of an urgent issue that touches on interpreting but is really a humanitarian issue: the September 30th expiration of the Special Immigrant Visa program. This program benefits U.S. allies, including Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who served the U.S. military.
In creating the program, Congress has recognized the need for these interpreters to receive visas. But, the application process is so lengthy and arbitrary that the program is about to close down with close to 80% of the visas left undistributed. Meanwhile, these interpreters are being targeted with violence and death threats for their role in the U.S. occupations. Some have already been killed. Many more live in hiding, unable to show their faces or support their families (read first-hand accounts of their experiences here). Setting aside my opinions on the wars, I strongly believe we must follow through on our promises to these interpreters.
There are a couple of actions you can take:
- Sign a petition asking the U.S. Congress to approve the Afghan Allies Protection Act (2013 petition: Sign a petition asking the U.S. Congress to extend the program)
- If you live in the United States, contact your congressional representatives directly. You can look them up on this site and be contacting them within a couple of screens. I believe this will be the most effective because the senators and representatives are able to see that you are from their state or district.
If you are just seeing this information and the deadline has already passed, I encourage you to still let your voice be heard so that your congressional representatives will know this issue matters to their constituents.