The House overwhelmingly passed legislation on Thursday to allow thousands of more Afghans who worked alongside U.S. forces to seek safe refuge in America and avoid retaliation from the Taliban.
The ALLIES Act passed in a 407-16 vote and now the legislation heads to the Senate. Lawmakers stressed the urgency in protecting their Afghan partners as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving Afghan translators and others exposed to the surging Taliban.
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“The American handshake must matter,” Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, the bill sponsor and Army Ranger veteran, tweeted. “Afghan partners stood with U.S. troops on the frontlines, including me. We can’t abandon them now.”
The legislation would expand the visa program and expedite processing to help Afghans who worked side-by-side with U.S. troops, diplomats, professionals and allied forces in carrying out missions enter the U.S. The legislation allows for 8,000 more visas.
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That would be in addition to the 26,500 special Afghan visas that are currently allotted.
The Biden administration says there are 20,000 applicants so far, half of whom have not completed the initial stages of review for the visas. The United States is also allowing former Afghan employees to bring in close family members.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.