Leahy statement on Senate passage of legislation to extend the Iraqi special immigrant visa program

News Release — Sen. Patrick Leahy
Oct. 1, 2013

Urges House To Renew Expiring Program

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) hailed the Senate’s unanimous approval of a bipartisan measure to extend an important visa program for Iraqi translators who support U.S. troops abroad.

The Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill late Monday night, just as the program’s authorization was set to expire, and Leahy called on the House to act quickly.

“This program offers nothing short of a lifeline for the Iraqi men and women who risked everything supporting the United States’ mission in Iraq,” Leahy said. “Given all that is on the line, I am hopeful that even in this difficult political climate, the House of Representatives will take up and swiftly pass this bill and we can send it to President Obama for his signature later today.”

The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program was created in 2008, and to date it has issued approximately 6,000 of its 25,000 allocated visas to translators who have served alongside U.S. troops. The straight reauthorization passed by the Senate would allow this program to continue processing applications and extending visas to qualifying Iraqis. Leahy worked on the bipartisan legislation with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“Among the many lessons of the Vietnam War is that we must not abandon those who risked their lives to help us,” Leahy said. “We made a commitment and we must honor it. We must renew this critical program.”

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Senate Passage of Legislation to Extend The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Program, S. 1566

October 1, 2013

I am proud that the Senate unanimously passed legislation late last night to extend the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. This program offers nothing short of a lifeline for the Iraqi men and women who risked everything supporting the United States’ mission in Iraq. Despite the fact that there are thousands of Iraqis still waiting for their paperwork to be processed, the program expired last night and we must take immediate action to renew it. Given all that is on the line, I am hopeful that even in this difficult political climate, the House of Representatives will take up and swiftly pass this bill and we can send it to President Obama for his signature later today.

Congress created the Iraqi SIV program in 2008 to allow some of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who served alongside U.S. troops the opportunity to seek safety and a new beginning in the United States. They were our translators and our guides. They were a critical resource to our troops, helping them navigate complex cultural, political and geographic terrain. They literally risked their lives for us. Now, five years after the original legislation passed, less than 6,000 of the 25,000 available visas have been distributed, leaving many well-deserving Iraqi allies in danger and American credibility on the line.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations, I worked hard to see that a reauthorization for the Iraqi SIV program is in the National Defense Authorization Act. Unfortunately, that reauthorization will not pass in time to renew this vital program. We also made significant efforts to include that extension in the Continuing Resolution passed by the Senate last week, but a Congressional stalemate has eroded that path. The only option that remains is for the House to take up and pass the bipartisan standalone bill immediately.

I am hopeful that we can do just that. I have joined with members from both sides of the aisle in the Senate, including Senators Shaheen, McCain, Grassley and Graham, as well members in the House, to resolve any concerns. We have compromised on the length of the extension and have covered any costs associated with it. Passage should be quick and straightforward. Lives are on the line. Our word is on the line. And it is time to act.

Among the many lessons of the Vietnam War is that we must not abandon those who risked their lives to help us. We made a commitment and we must honor it. We must renew this critical program.

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