Thanks to a previous Change.org petition, I was able to help Janis Shinwari, my interpreter while I served as a base intelligence officer in Afghanistan, secure a visa to resettle in the US after he was stuck for years in bureaucratic red tape. Now I need your help again to save my other interpreter, Ehsan.
While serving in Iraq in 2008, I learned that the help of local Afghan nationals like Janis and Ehsan was critical to our effort. Thousands of Afghan nationals have served as interpreters to assist US troops in communicating in real time and providing a cultural link between the troops and Afghan nationals. It wasn’t until after my service, when I learned that Janis’ life was in danger as he was placed on a Taliban kill list because of his work to help US troops, that I truly understand how much these brave individuals put on the line. Every day, many of these interpreters live in fear that they or their families will be harmed in retaliation for their efforts -- a very real and deadly threat.
Like Janis, Ehsan is an amazing man. During our time together, Ehsan helped my unit and I interdict over 7 tons (millions of dollars worth) of drugs used by the Taliban to fund their attacks. The Taliban know this and as a result placed him on their kill list. Without our help, he could die.
Luckily, the US operates a specific visa program for Afghan nationals who serve as interpreters who want to relocate to the US -- and there is a similar program for interpreters in Iraq. The program was created through legislation in 2009 (the Afghan Allies Protection Act), but thousands of interpreters are still waiting for their visas. The process is incredibly complicated for applicants and bureaucrat hold ups leave interpreters waiting in dangerous situations for months or even years. Now, both programs are set to expire in the coming months unless Congress takes action to renew them.
When my previous campaign took off, Janis’ application started moving faster and now Janis has his visa to safety. I don't think I've ever heard him as happy as when he finally received his visa. Ehsan, my other interpreter, heard all about our efforts to help Janis and contacted me begging that I do for him what I did for Janis. Ehsan submitted his application to the US Embassy in Kabul in June 2012 but he’s still waiting for his visa.
The Embassy and the State Department have the power to help Ehsan leave Afghanistan and start a life in a safe place. Together, we can help make that happen.