Garamendi Introduces Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Act

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the “Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Act” (H.R.5482) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would direct the State Department to automatically issue a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) for every Afghan who lived in the United States as a Fulbright Scholar and their immediate family members so they can escape persecution by the Taliban and relocate safely to the United States.

To date, Congressman Garamendi’s office has helped to evacuate 251 individuals from Afghanistan following the U.S. military drawdown from the region. This includes American citizens, Afghan interpreters, and Special Immigrant Visa recipients. During the evacuation process, Garamendi helped evacuate over a dozen Afghan Fulbright Scholars who studied at the University of California, Davis. That experience exposed significant challenges for Afghan Fulbright Scholars with the current SIV process that underscored the need for the “Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Act.”

“Fulbright Scholarships are one of the most vital U.S. cultural exchange programs that help to improve intercultural relations, diplomacy, and coordination between the United States and other countries,” Garamendi said. “When my Congressional office learned that UC Davis’ Fulbright participants were stuck attempting to escape Afghanistan last month, we immediately worked around-the-clock with both the State Department and the U.S. military to evacuate these Afghan allies. That critical work revealed red tape that prevented current and former Afghan Fulbright Scholars from escaping Taliban rule. My ‘Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Act’ would automatically issue a Special Immigrant Visa to all current and former Afghan Fulbright Scholars to help any remaining Scholars and their immediate family members safely evacuate the region. This is the right thing to do for our Afghan allies who stood with the United States against the Taliban and the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and I will work tirelessly to ensure see them brought safely to America,” Garamendi concluded.

In 2009, Congress passed the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 (Title VI of Public Law 111-8) making a special class of American visas—known as Special Immigrant Visas—available to individual Afghan allies who supported the United States’ mission in Afghanistan since the September 11, 2001 attacks. An SIV entitles a foreign national to relocate and live lawfully in the United States on a temporary basis with the option to settle permanently.

Specifically, Garamendi’s “Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Act” would issue a special immigrant visa to any citizen or national of Afghanistan, and their legal spouse or children, selected on or after October 7, 2001 for the following educational and cultural exchange programs sponsored by the State Department:

·        J. William Fulbright Educational Exchange Program, including the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Grant Program, the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program, and the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program;

·        International Visitor Leadership Program (formerly known as the International Visitor Program);

·        Any other similar educational or cultural exchange program administered by the State Department involving travel to the United States and spending significant time living, working, or studying therein.

Congressman Garamendi serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, which oversees all U.S. military logistics including the airlift evacuations by United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM).