We should help Afghan refugees who helped us
In the days before and after the U.S. evacuation from Kabul, my office received calls concerning more than 200 Afghan citizens seeking to flee the country because their lives are now at serious risk under the Taliban. These calls have come from, among others, concerned family members, many of them American citizens and from the U.S. servicemen and women who relied on their Afghan allies to keep them safe and help them do their jobs.
Many of these Afghans served as translators and interpreters for the U.S. troops. Some of them even went out on patrol. Others are at risk for personal reasons, such as women who want to ensure basic human rights like their right to an education or those who may be persecuted due to their sexual orientation.
In some cases, we have successfully made contact with individuals who are currently in hiding. In other cases, we're still searching. Either way, we will not give up on our efforts to bring these courageous individuals to America and give them a new start.
However you might feel about our 20-year war in Afghanistan -- and I believe it was well past time for our troops to come home -- most Americans can agree that we have a moral obligation to those Afghans who put their lives and futures at risk to help our mission succeed. Keeping them out of the Taliban's grasp and helping them to make a new start is what we owe them for their friendship and commitment to our cause.
More than a decade ago, the U.S. created a special status for those Afghans at risk because they assisted our military and government: Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). Applying for an SIV requires a 14-step process, including a personal interview and a security screening -- even for those who passed earlier screenings to work with the U.S. Those arriving in the U.S. are first sent to military bases, where they receive a health screening including testing for Covid-19. Few, if any, immigrants could pose a smaller risk to our security.
Moreover, these Afghan refugees are well-suited to becoming full-fledged Americans who will add to the strength of our nation. Since most of them served as translators and interpreters, they already speak English. Many of them are well-educated.
Just as important, they have risked their lives -- and those of their family members -- to help our troops promote our democratic ideals against the armed aggression of religious fundamentalists who reject our adherence to free elections, the rights of women and minorities and individual liberties. In this way, they would make model Americans whose ideals and principles are aligned with our own.
There is precedent for accepting a similar wave of refugees after a wartime defeat. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the U.S. welcomed more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees in less than a year. They and their descendants have gone on to become patriotic Americans, building strong communities, starting small businesses and successfully pursuing the American Dream.
Our Afghan friends deserve nothing less.
• Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, represents the 8th Congressional District of Illinois.