Iraqi Visa Bill Reauthorized Despite Washington Gridlock

Despite the government shutdown and very little compromise in Congress, one type of immigrant visa for Iraqi Translators/interpreters managed to pass into law. People are hoping the same kind of cooperation can happen with the rest of immigration law.

Rare agreement for both parties

President Obama signed this program into law to extend it even though it was set to expire at the end of September. This rare agreement reminds both parties that despite their stalemates, humanitarian protections remain bipartisan. This unique visa program was created in 2008 under the National Authorization Act which gave the Department of State the right to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Iraqi nationals working for the U.S. Embassy or with the U.S. Armed Forces. Under this act, SIVs were capped at 25,000 and there was a significant backlog. Organizations have said the reason for the backlog is attributed “to the complexity of the SIV application process and the time it takes to clear each bureaucratic stage.” Although the program does seem to have backlog issues and a long delay for its renewal, Congress supports the program which made it easy to extend in such a short time.

Lawmakers show they can compromise over immigration issues

Several lawmakers got together in the spring from both parties and wrote to the president about the approaching expiration date. “If we want foreign nationals to help us in the future, and risk their lives to help our troops, they need to see that we have kept our commitments to our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan” says Rep. Earl Blumenauer. The critical timing issues in the translator program illustrate the importance of taking a long term view of immigration legislation. Without a system that is flexible and changes along with foreign policy, we will always be playing “catch-up” and putting lives at risk. Lawmakers are hoping the same type of compromise will occur over immigration law in the U.S. if extending this special visa bill was accomplished in so little time.

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