Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), made the following statement about the sacrifices and contributions made by holders of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) on behalf of the United States and its national security:
“When we talk about holders of Special Immigrant Visas, we are talking about individuals who have provided their invaluable skills, and made untold sacrifices, in order to help save American lives and advance U.S. national security. We should not turn our backs on them. The quotes below tell some of their stories and illustrate their contributions.”
Quotes about holders of Special Immigrant Visas:
“There are American men and women in uniform who are alive today because a lot of Afghans put their lives on the line—for their own country, sure—but with us.”
–U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley
“Compassion for people displaced by persecution and calamity is a core American Ideal. … ensuring that [these people] receive protection is part of what makes us who we are.”
–Admiral James Stavridis
“I’m a Marine Captain who served from 2007-2012 including a tour in Iraq. An interpreter accompanied by platoon every day when I ran convoys between Al Asad and Camp Korean Village, near the Syrian & Jordanian borders. These interpreters were risking their lives to help Americans in the hopes that it would improve the future of their own country. … [t]he violent invasion of ISIS into Northern & Western Iraq has put them in danger and many have already been executed.
“I was appalled last fall at the response of Americans towards refugees who were fleeing terror … terror that was in part due to America’s failures to establish security in a nation we invaded. In response to this inhumane response to refugees and interpreters, my husband and I decided to take in a refugee family in Alexandria, Virginia. We had just put our house on the market but decided to offer it to a family who was being resettled by Catholic Charities.
“Arif served with USAID in Afghanistan for several years and also tried to improve his government by implementing IT systems and logistics processes to improve government functions. The Taliban began threatening Arif’s children and said they would kill his daughter if he continued working with the Americans. He applied for an SIV and, nearly 2 years later, his family arrived to Virginia. Our church worked together to furnish the home and provide clothing and food for the family in their first months. Now, Arif is working as a salesman. He was willing to take any job and started out as a baggage handler at the airport, doing manual labor. He has a college degree and speaks multiple languages. But said he was willing to take any job because ‘in America anything is possible if you just work hard.’ His children go to the same school as my children. While they spoke no English upon arrival, they are now reading and speaking fluently just a year later. Our family and church has introduced them to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, and even the Super Bowl! They are thankful for the opportunity to live in security now and contribute to our country’s economic growth.
“These are people. We need to start treating them as such rather than as pawns in a political game. Failure to live up to our word would be a stain on our character as a nation and would be an embarrassment to our military.”
—Sarah Feinberg, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
“Our interpreter was like a brother to us. He risked his life, his family’s life, so we could actually work over there, and we need to get him here.”
–Robert Morisseau, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
“If anyone deserves to be an American, it’s our interpreter—since he sacrificed it all for a place he’s never even set foot in.”
–Ramiro “Ram” Lopez, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
“The bravest person I’ve ever known went by the nickname Suge Knight…. A Sudanese Muslim, Suge served as my scout platoon’s interpreter during our deployment to Iraq in 2007 and 2008, and he went on every patrol and mission with us, no matter the circumstances.”
–Matt Gallagher, U.S. Army veteran
“We made a promise. We are crippling ourselves in a potential future conflict by having future local nationals refuse to help us because of our handling of the current SIV situation.”
–Andy Sliva, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
“Our Afghan interpreters are now facing the risk of life, liberty—their families are in danger. All because they did the right thing. ... And now we’re abandoning them.”
–James Miller, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
“She inspires me. … I’m so excited to see what she does for our country and the world.”
–Kelsey Campbell, U.S. Air Force veteran, speaking about her Iraqi interpreter who is now resettled in the U.S.
“Sam and Ford both have incredible stories of early ambition, self sacrifice, and service to two countries who have been a war for quite some time. They were childhood friends and saw an opportunity with the invasion of 03’ to do something for their country [Iraq]. They both signed up to be interpreters for U.S. forces almost immediately, one of them was only 17 years old at the time. I met the two of them in 2007 during my deployment to Rutbah, Iraq. Upon meeting them it was obvious they have been living with Marines for years as they had all of the gear and knew all the lingo—including how to insert an explicative in every possible sentence (as Marines do.)”
“I cannot imagine how different how raids would have been had we not had them with us. There is a lot of uncertainty in dynamic situations but they provided the clarity we desperately needed. They had a sense of the area and always knew long before us if something wasn’t right or when to be suspicious of others. They were not always allowed to be armed but took it in stride. They had to sleep and eat in the filthiest conditions but never complained. They were paid even less than us and still, we never heard a word of it.
“I stayed in touch with both Sam and Ford and was fortunate enough to meet with them in Chicago years after I got out of the military. One is now a U.S. citizen and the other a green card holder, both were going to school. It goes without saying that these men saved American lives, they left their families for years to work with us, and deserve to have a chance at the American dream. For they are everything that make us great.”
—Doug Jackson, Marine Corps veteran
“When I was in the army, when I put on the uniform, they treated me as a brother.”
–Former Iraqi interpreter for the U.S. Army Othman Al Janabi
“We made a promise and we have to keep it. We are weaker if we don’t keep our promise to our allies.”
–Joe Jenkins, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
“I would like to see the interpreters who were beside me on every patrol I went on, get what they were promised.”
–Colt Smith, U.S. Marine Corps veteran