I Find This Absolutely Disgusting

We apparently can’t process a couple thousand visas to protect the people who risked their lives to protect us:

The cases of thousands of Afghan interpreters who worked with the U.S. military and hope to relocate to the United States are in limbo because the government will soon run out of visas designated for the resettlement program, State Department officials said Thursday.

Worried about the welfare of linguists who are under threat for their affiliation with the U.S. government, State Department officials are asking Congress to allow the issuing of more visas during the remainder of the fiscal year and to extend the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which is set to expire in September.

About 6,000 applicants are in the pipeline, including about 300 whose cases have reached the final stage of the process. Congress set a cap of 3,000 visas for 2014. The State Department expects to have issued that many visas within days, well ahead of the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

“We owe these people this opportunity to be out of harm’s way,” Heather A. Higginbottom, the deputy secretary of state for management and resources, said in an interview. “This program and our commitment to them is incredibly important.”

I have no idea why any one in the world takes us at our word. Dealing with the United States must be like the old joke I remember from those Truly Tasteless Joke Books in the early 80’s:

Q: How do you say fuck you in Los Angeles?

A: Trust me.

*** Update ***

I’m really pissed off about this. Christ, I have a spare bedroom. Shawn and I both benefited from native interpreters, and we’ll take a guy in. Anyone know anyone at the state department? Tell them if the process a guy who needs a place, my email is on the right. And you can bet your ass there are tens of thousands of Americans who would do the same. We owe these guys just like we owe our veterans. Fer fuck’s sake. Why does this even need to be said?

*** Update #2 ***

I’ve been informed in the comments and via email I am lashing out at the wrong people. I should have known this was not about the State department, but our casually indifferent Congress. Figures.

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68 replies
  1. 1
    JPL says:

    We also owe them a job when they arrive. It’s not enough to let them come to our country without a means of support.

  2. 2
    rikyrah says:

    this is the least we could do for these folks. absolutely shameless.

  3. 3
    efgoldman says:

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the House to vote for it. Most Afghanis are (a) brown and (b) Muslim.
    Doncha’ know.

    ETA: Steve King will probably introduce a bill to give them jobs at Gitmo.

  4. 4
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Q: How do you say fuck you in Los Angeles?

    You say “Hey baby, want to join the .04-mile high club?”

  5. 5
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I think I said this on FB but I will say it again: “Running out of visas” just strikes me as absurd. It’s like saying, Oh, we can no longer measure anything because we’ve run out of inches.

    Jesus Fucking Kee-rist, what has happened to this country? (Rhetorical.)

  6. 6
    muddy says:

    I injured myself and had to sit quietly all week. I finally watched The Wire. Watched it all day all week like it was my full time job. Damn! Finished last night and I’m still feeling it.

    Anyway this talk of broken promises and using people just to chuck them afterwards obviously struck a nerve. Funny, the technology was so antique, but the issues were perfectly fresh.

  7. 7
    The Dangerman says:

    If State can’t do it’s job well and bad things happen to people that can be possibly be blamed on Hillary (even if she’s not there any longer), well, those linguists will have to wait until after 2016.

  8. 8
    Keith P says:

    Big shiny gold star to JC for name-dropping Truly Tasteless Jokes. I used to get those as birthday/x-mas gifts when I was in high school. They were a staple in my family, from my grandparents on down.

  9. 9
    Liquid says:

    I’m surprised we didn’t just execute them. If we’re going to assume the mantle of evil I’d prefer we didn’t do so in such a half-assed fashion.

  10. 10

    @SiubhanDuinne: They have yearly quotas for all kinds of visas not just these ones. This is precisely the reason, why some people have to wait for years to actually get a GC for example, when even their intent to immigrate has been processed and accepted.

  11. 11
    MikeJ says:

    The obvious thing to do is to give them tourist and/or student visas so they can at least be out of Afghanistan while they wait.

  12. 12
    gene108 says:

    This really shows how utterly and totally fucking twisted the Republicans in Congress are.

    Giving out a few thousand more visas used to be something Congress would do before this current crop of do-nothing thieves, who are stealing our tax dollars and not doing a damn thing to make this country better.

    Plus, I blame Obama for not saving the translators, because he is in charge of the State Department.(/media)

  13. 13
    Corner Stone says:

    Tiffani Theissen has gotten even more amazingly hot, if that’s possible.

  14. 14
    gene108 says:

    @Mike J :

    The obvious thing to do is to give them tourist and/or student visas so they can at least be out of Afghanistan while they wait.

    You have to be able to show means of support to get either of those visas.

    You need to show you plan to return to your country of origin, in order to get a tourist visa and will not stay on here indefinitely. Part of that is showing you have a job or something to return to, like a family, home, etc.

    To get a student visa you need to show you have a means of support, while you are studying in the U.S.

    The visa office, I doubt, has the leeway to bend those rules enough to allow interpreters to hang around here for a few months or years, until the visa situation resolves itself.

  15. 15
    Corner Stone says:

    @muddy: I, uhhh…what?

  16. 16
    lawguy says:

    I think you nailed it with your next to last sentence. “We owe them like we owe our veterans.”

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    Anyone know anyone at the state department?

    It’s not the State Department that is the problem here.

  18. 18
    Corner Stone says:

    @gene108:

    Plus, I blame Obama for not saving the translators, because he is in charge of the State Department.(/media)

    Sorry. Is this some kind of strange visa meta-snark?

  19. 19
    Yatsuno says:

    @gene108:

    Plus, I blame Obama for not saving the translators, because he is in charge of the State Department.(/media)

    It will not matter where the blame truly lies. It will all be the fault of THAT ONE who dares to occupy the White House.

  20. 20
    Corner Stone says:

    @lawguy:

    I think you nailed it with your next to last sentence. “We owe them like we owe our veterans.”

    Which is to say, ” Ha Ha!”
    /Nelson Muntz

  21. 21
    James E. Powell says:

    Why wouldn’t they get refugee status?

  22. 22
    JDM says:

    Our veterans? Like Bergdahl? Like the folks whose benefits we cut just after we sent them into Iraq without supply lines?

    Seems to me we’re supporting these interpreters pretty much like we support our veterans. And our rightwingers are in the forefront of this “support” just like they always are.

  23. 23
    WaterGirl says:

    @muddy: The Wire sounds like the silver lining in what must have been a really crappy week. Hope you are doing better already!

  24. 24
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @James E. Powell: They don’t have a well-founded fear of death, bodily harm, or persecution based on one of the usual five grounds – race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and in some cases, gender.

    ‘Having worked for the US’ isn’t one of those.The law doesn’t foresee the possibility that working for us could make you a target.

  25. 25
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @James E. Powell: The technical answer is that to have refugee status one must have actually fled one’s home country; the translators still live in Afghanistan. If they happened to get out and onto US soil, they should have no problem being adjudged refugees.

    We should at least pull them out of Afghanistan into a friendly country while the idiocy with Congress and the visas is sorted out.

    @Davis X. Machina:

    They don’t have a well-founded fear of death, bodily harm, or persecution based on one of the usual five grounds – race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and in some cases, gender.

    I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Working for the US would put them in danger on political grounds.

  26. 26
    efgoldman says:

    @lawguy:

    “We owe them like we owe our veterans.”

    And the GOBP has taken care of our veterans… how, exactly?

  27. 27
    Mandalay says:

    @Liquid:

    I’m surprised we didn’t just execute them.

    No need. Just leave them behind and they’ll end up dead anyway. That approach saves bullet$.

  28. 28
    Jay C says:

    @Yatsuno:

    Plus, I blame Obama for not saving the translators, because he is in charge of the State Department.(/media)

    And of course, if President Obama DID do something – anything – to speed up the process via Executive Order, or whatever – you just know the howler monkeys in Congress would be frothing and shrieking “IMPEACHMENT” over his Hideous Unjust Tyranny or something….

    And our sage political media will just nod and hum, nod and hum….

  29. 29
    LosGatosCA says:

    Come on. The US has been lying to people who help us during war time since at least WWII when we made promises of citizenship to Filipinos.

    We’re good at the ‘You thought we were serious when you were risking your life? How quaint – you’re supposed to be dead anyway ‘

    A variation of the bait and switch known as the straight up screw you.

  30. 30
    gene108 says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    Visa quotas are the modern, more civilized version, of restricting immigration from undesirable groups like Chinese, Asian Indian and Hispanics.

    To simplify, but more or less correct, each country gets a relatively equal number of visas allocated for people born there to get Green Cards, if they choose.

    The number of people applying from China, India and Mexico is more than say Norway or Luxemburg, but the quotas do not discriminate because the numbers are the same, even though the visa quotas do not get filled from Norway, Luxemburg, etc because there are not that many people from those countries to begin with and they do not seek to live in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

    Whereas the quotas for China, India and Mexico get backlogged for several years because the number of people applying every year for Green Cards far exceeds the visa quota for those countries.

    It would take an act of Congress to allow USCIS to allocate the unused visas to clear up the backlogs for China, India and Mexico, but so far there’s no action on it. It’s been proposed as part of immigration reform, but as immigration reform is not going to pass, it is a pipe dream for thousands stuck waiting to get Green Cards.

  31. 31
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    Didn’t we fucked over the Montangnards in Vietnam and Laos? Then again we fucked over Naive American allies of the US government during the wars in the Southwest. Then there were the Polish soldiers in WWII. Par for the course.

  32. 32
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    However logical, there’s very little guarantee that that would qualify as ‘political’, though, given the way the law is administered in practice. Links to a trades union, or a party, or a movement, or something that’s overtly political helps — mere employment by the US might not qualify. If the applicants were actually employees of the existing Afghan government, they certainly wouldn’t qualify on those grounds, unless and until the government turned over. That did happen in Vietnam.

    The law here is clearly an ass, but it’s also the law.
    For my money, it’s a big country — we’ll find room. But then, I’m not running USCIS or ICE.

    Executive order time…..

  33. 33
    Jay C says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    They don’t have a well-founded fear of death, bodily harm, or persecution based on one of the usual five grounds – race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and in some cases, gender.

    Whether justly or unjustly applied, the term “collaborator” is usually interpreted to apply to such a “group”….

  34. 34
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: Over 100,000 Hmong came to the US.

  35. 35
    Johnny Yuma says:

    Recall the fond farewells from the heliport of the Saigon embassy? The natives were so sorry to see U.S. leave that they were crying.

    Hanging peoples out to dry is a reflex with U.S. foreign policy shot callers; leastwise during my lifetime. WTF did these Afghan fools expect?

    They laid down with swine.

    And by swine, I mean every U.S. citizen.

    Every once in a while, I think about the Iraqi boy whose arms were shorn from his torso by an American artillery shell. You remember the incident? The same shell killed his parents and siblings.

    An American reporter (in)famously shoved a mic in the child’s face and asked, “Do you understand why this happened”? Or something to that effect.

    That’s who we are. That reporter.

    The Afghans who trusted us most recently have proved themselves fools.

  36. 36
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): I think DMX is having a little fun with you as a foil.

    Otherwise, he’s a monster.

  37. 37
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Jay C: The relationship between the US Gov’t and the Karzai gov’t is such that the category of ‘collaborator’ wouldn’t actually exist… yet.

    A ‘particular social group’ in practice is generally understood as an identifiable group of people viewed by a government as a threat. Former members of a military or police force have been so recognized, after the government that employed them was replaced by a hostile one.

  38. 38
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I know, but it could be changed with the stroke of a pen, Sir. (At ~ :50-:55)

  39. 39
    Punchy says:

    If they’re running out of Visas, just have them apply for Mastercards.

  40. 40
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @gene108:

    It would take an act of Congress

    Exfuckingzackly.

  41. 41
    another Holocene human says:

    @gene108: and meanwhile they wring their hands and moan about human trafficking, lots of it from China and Mexico to US, most of it not the sexy kind that excites nasty moral scolds, more on the order of slave labor in farms and factories. Yaawwwwwn peasants.

  42. 42
    gene108 says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Sorry. Is this some kind of strange visa meta-snark?

    Basic civics. Executive Branch executes laws passed by Congress.

    Things change over time and existing laws no longer work, there should be pressure to push Congress to act.

    Right now, the pressure seems focused on the Executive for not being able to execute laws that do not work, rather than demanding Congress do something.

    It’s gone beyond a “both sides do it” to a “boys will be boys” attitude towards the crap the Republicans do. There’s nothing that actually shocks our sensibilities anymore, with what Republicans will do or say.

    The media’s gone from “this goes beyond common decency” to blaming Democrats for not being able to get a bunch of “rowdy boys” to act decently.

  43. 43
    Mike in NC says:

    Betraying people who’ve assisted in our war efforts is simply dismissed as “collateral damage”.

  44. 44
    Corner Stone says:

    @gene108: Oh, ok thanks. I, for one, suggest we should not worry too much about bringing them on board.
    They should be encouraged to bring the spirit of American democracy to their own country.

  45. 45
    Dave C says:

    This American Life had a riveting but deeply depressing episode about the plight of people who helped us in Afghanistan and Iraq, are now in deep danger because of said help, and are trying to to emigrate over here without success. It was fairly disturbing, actually.

  46. 46
    goblue72 says:

    Jesus Cole – talk about garbling the facts right in your lede. The problem isn’t that we can’t “process” enough visas – the problem is its a temporary program that had an annual cap and we are running out of visas.

    Normally, for this sort of program associated with national defense, Congress would just re-up the cap and authorize issuing more visas, as a purely bipartisan matter right on par with Post Office naming agenda items.

    But, since this is the Tea Party House, nothing is being voted on because it would “help” Obama or something. And each and every one of these normal functioning of government type Congressional actions becomes an opportunity for the Teahadis to make some outrageous demand in return. I can only assume Democrats are telling them F.U. we aren’t playing that game anymore.

    Unfortunately, it means these Afganis are SOL.

  47. 47

    Why does this even need to be said?

    Because they aren’t white and they probably are Muslim.

    So the shrieking howler monkeys of the nativist right would probably scream “Amnesty!” and the GOP caucus would start outdoing themselves about building a giant dome over the contiguous 48 to prevent sneaky Muslims from getting into America via airplane.

  48. 48
    Groucho48 says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    Then again we fucked over Naive American allies of the US government during the wars in the Southwest.

    Typo? Or, internet-winning play on words?

  49. 49
    Davis X. Machina says:

    It’s what empires do. Consider what happened to the harkis who fought for France in Algeria.

  50. 50
    Sir Laffs-a-Lot says:

    That extra bedroom belongs to Steve; do you have His permission to just casually pass it around?

  51. 51
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Davis X. Machina: What happened to the Harkis and similar groups is exactly why the translators can cite a “well-founded fear of persecution.”

  52. 52
    James E. Powell says:

    Leaving aside the issue of the person’s current location for the moment.

    Isn’t refugee status a question of fact for the hearing officer or ALJ?

    I don’t know immigration law or procedure, but I seem to recall that this was how a number of Iranian people got into the US after the Iranian revolution.

    Back to the person’s current location. We can find third countries that will let us use them for torture and imprisonment, but not for refugees? If so, we suck.

  53. 53
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @James E. Powell:

    Isn’t refugee status a question of fact for the hearing officer or ALJ?

    It is. Once the person is in the US. I did my law review article in law school on this topic with respect to the interdiction at sea of Haitian refugees. I advocated then and still support a broad application of both US and international on refugee issues. Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court, by a 5-4 conservative majority back in the 90s went the other way.

    As far as how to handle these guys, as I noted above, I would fully back flying these guys to a friendly third country while the visa shit gets worked out.

  54. 54
    Cervantes says:

    @Johnny Yuma:

    Every once in a while, I think about the Iraqi boy whose arms were shorn from his torso by an American artillery shell. You remember the incident? The same shell killed his parents and siblings.

    The boy was Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 12 years old in 2003. He lost both his arms, 65% of his skin, and sixteen relatives, including all his immediate family. On April 7, a news story about him was published by Reuters Gulf bureau chief Samia Nakhoul; it was accompanied by an unforgettable photograph taken by Reuters cameraman Faleh Kheiber. If you remember Ali, it is because of Samia and Faleh.

    An American reporter (in)famously shoved a mic in the child’s face and asked, “Do you understand why this happened”? Or something to that effect. That’s who we are. That reporter.

    It was CNN’s Kyra Phillips who interviewed (not the boy but) his doctor, Imad Al-Najada, in Kuwait, by videophone. The doctor: “[The boy] said, first of all, thank you for the attention they’re giving to him, but he hopes nobody from the children in the war they will suffer like what he suffer.” To which the award-winning Ms. Phillips replied:

    Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning? Does he understand it?

    Two notes:

    1. The Reuters article and photograph appeared on April 7. The next day an American tank fired a 120-mm cannon shell into Reuters’ office in the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, grievously injuring both Samia Nakhoul and Faleh Kheiber and killing others.

    Journalists said they heard no gunfire coming from the hotel or its immediate environs. They had been watching two US tanks shooting across the al-Jumhuriya bridge, more than a kilometre away, when one of the tanks rotated its turret toward the hotel and fired. The round pierced the 14th and 15th floors of the 17-story hotel, spraying glass and shrapnel across a corner suite serving as Reuters’ Baghdad bureau.

    2. The boy, Ali Ismaeel Abbas, is still alive. He was married in 2012 to a girl he’d known since childhood. Journalist Samia Nakhoul survived her brain surgery and still works for Reuters. Faleh Kheiber is still one of Iraq’s leading photojournalists.

  55. 55
    LesGS says:

    Thanks for the take back about the State Department, John. My dad, who served as an FSO in Mexico, Turkey, Vietnam, and Greece (and took his family to all those places except Vietnam, because War and being himself both shot at and in range of mortar fire while there).

    Folks at State respect the locals. Why go into the career if you aren’t interested in all kinds of people and their cultures? Believe me, it ain’t ‘cuz of the big bucks. FSOs know they can’t do their jobs without them and without their trust. State *needs* their trust and won’t screw them over.

    Fucking Congress. We so owe these interpreters.

  56. 56
    Jay says:

    You’re a good man and a patriot, Cole. I say: keep raising Hell until you connect with an interpreter you can help; if you welcome that person into your life, we in this little community will do our small part to welcome him or her, as well.

  57. 57
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    I’ve been informed in the comments and via email I am lashing out at the wrong people. I should have known this was not about the State department, but our casually indifferent Congress. Figures.

    Glad you saw that. Any chance you can post the Congressional phone numbers like Tim F. has done in the past? I’ll contact my people tomorrow.

  58. 58
    RaflW says:

    Our Congress is anything but casually indifferent. They are specifically and repugnantly hostile. And the they in question are Republicans.

  59. 59
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @RaflW: Exactly. People will die because of this. It won’t be State’s fault. It won’t be the
    Army”s fault. It should be laid at the feet of a pure oppositional House. Raising the visa limits to cover everyone should be a no-brainer.

  60. 60
    Yatsuno says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    It should be laid at the feet of a pure oppositional House. Raising the visa limits to cover everyone should be a no-brainer.

    You, unfortunately, just answered your own question. The blah man will want it, therefore it must be opposed.

  61. 61
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @lawguy: Pretty much. The Rethug scum in the House talk the talk, but they will not walk the walk.

  62. 62
    Chris says:

    @LesGS:

    Other FSO brat chiming in to agree. Every organization has its share of flaws and bad people, but the thing is, State, like CIA and for that matter most government departments, makes a convenient scapegoat for dumbass (and usually right wing) politicians to blame for the fuckups arising from their own actions or failures to act (in this case, a visa situation that they could fix overnight if the fancy struck them).

    Because of that, my knee jerk reaction to pretty much any story that lays the blame on these departments and fails to go any higher up the responsibility chain is to assume that it’s just that, scapegoating bullshit, until proven otherwise.

    Not that it makes the actual story of how we’re screwing over these people (again) any less true, unfortunately.

  63. 63
    Bill says:

    Don’t we still need intelligence from the region? And aren’t we terribly short on Pashto and Dari speakers? Shouldn’t the CIA, etc, be screaming for these guys? And we’re not going to get them because the Republicans in Congress have “making Obama a failed president” as their highest priority? Fuck. Them.

  64. 64
    Chris says:

    @Bill:

    Traditionally, hell yes, the CIA, State Department, and military have been screaming for people like this, but the security clearance process is enough of a pain in the soft parts that it’s been incredibly hard to fill out.

    Ask Cervantes, who the last time I brought that up, said that it used to be true but had become less of a problem in the last few years. If true, that’s good in one way, but unfortunately, probably means even less incentive to speed up the process for these guys.

  65. 65
    Donna McLean says:

    Here is someone who is actually trying to do something about this–https://www.facebook.com/mzeller24?fref=ts

  66. 66
    Procopius says:

    Reference Update #2: This is not a case of “callously indifferent” congress critters. This is a case of Republicans following a strategy which seems to be working for them They have said over and over again that they will not do anything that gives the appearance of bipartisanship, because that would be a “win” for Obama. Therefore anything that is Christianly charitable or good for the country must be opposed tooth and nail.

  67. 67
    Elizabelle says:

    George Packer, The New Yorker today:

    Becca Heller, the director of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, said, “[ISIS] has exponentially increased the danger for anyone with a U.S. affiliation, while simultaneously diverting U.S. government resources from providing protection for those same people. We’re receiving over a hundred e-mails a week from people who think they’ll be dead by Friday.”

    Last year, Congress became fed up with the delays, and specified that the government must decide on Special Immigrant Visa applications within nine months. Ali has been kept waiting for more than two years, with no idea why. “I’m trapped between the sky and planet Earth,” he said. “What should I do in order to convince them I’m in danger? Should I get shot?” This week, [IRAP] and the international law firm Freshfields are filing a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Ali, asking a judge to compel the government to act on his case, on the ground of “unreasonable delay.” Heller said, “If they’re going to reject him, I want them to have to do it in front of a judge.”

    President Barack Obama has sent several hundred American military advisers to help the demoralized Iraqi Army stave off isis. He has also declared the American war in Iraq over, and expressed skepticism that U.S. power could hold together a violently divided and badly ruled Iraq. But surely America has the capacity to save its Iraqi friends whose war never ended, before [ISIS] or the militias kill them first.

  68. 68

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