Afghan, Iraqi Refugees Complain Delayed Visas Threaten Lives
WASHINGTON — Afghan and Iraqi refugees accused the Biden administration in a court filing last week of creating too many new obstacles to their residency in the United States.
The plaintiffs were translators for the U.S. military. They say they face retaliation from the Taliban and al-Qaeda if they cannot stay in the United States.
They are applicants for special immigrant visas they say were promised for helping the U.S. military during the war on terrorism in the Middle East.
Now they say some of them are being excluded by new Biden administration performance standards, requirements for length of service and the method for identifying eligible applicants. They also say the policies violate a federal court order.
The nonprofit refugee advocacy group No One Left Behind conservatively estimates nearly 350 Afghans and Iraqis who assisted American soldiers and later sought refugee status in the United States already have been murdered in revenge killings.
The plaintiffs initially filed their complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2018. They won an order last November that eliminated many of the performance and length of service conditions.
Their filing last week accuses the federal government of violating the court order with a “proposed plan” of new conditions for the special immigrant visas.
“Defendants attempt to relieve themselves of key plan obligations and commit to no more than the status quo, all without demonstrating valid justification for the contested changes,” the court filing said. “Even if defendants were to comply perfectly with the Proposed Plan, it would take them over three years, or potentially indefinitely longer, to adjudicate class members’ already unreasonably delayed [special immigrant visa] applications.”
One of the biggest previous obstacles for the visa applicants was getting fired or receiving poor job performance reviews while they worked as U.S. military contractors.
They argue that regardless of whether their job performance was inadequate, they still face risks of death for themselves and their families if their applications are denied.
The U.S. government says that with more than 74,000 applicants for the visas, they need time to determine eligibility and to properly process the applications.
The case is Afghan and Iraqi Allies v. Pompeo et al., case number 1:18-cv-01388, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.