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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Editorials

Helping our Afghan friends

Published:

Congress and the U.S. State Department need to revisit what looks to be a sluggish process for approving the immigration of Afghans who face reprisals for aiding Americans.

The Tribune’s Howard Altman reported a dismaying case that indicates the Afghan Allies Protection Act — adopted to provide special immigrant visas for interpreters and other Afghans who have helped the United States battle terrorists — is not working as it should.

An interpreter called Farhad, fearing Taliban retribution, has been trying for four years to enter the United States.

He’s faced the delays despite a relentless campaign by Tampa resident Ty Edwards to help Farhad find sanctuary.

Edwards credits the interpreter with helping save his life.

In 2008, Marine Lt. Col. Edwards was leading a convoy that was attacked by the Taliban. Edwards was shot in the forehead. The interpreter and a Navy corpsman ran through heavy gunfire to assist him.

The 43-year-old Tampa Palms resident is working diligently to recover from the bullet’s impact.

But he’s also equally determined to help Farhad find safety.

He wrote to U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, “I have no doubt that I would not be alive today if not for the heroic actions” of Farhad.

Yet despite the Afghan’s heroics, his requests to come to the United States have languished for four years. Continued inquiries by Ross, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Altman finally seemed to have gotten the State Department’s attention.

This week the agency indicated approval is near.

There is no question the nation must scrutinize applicants and be vigilant about security.

But there is no reason it should take four years to approve the application of a man who loyally served the U.S. military and risked his life to save an American officer.

Such interminable delays jeopardize lives.

As the 30-year-old Farhad told Altman in an email: “The Taliban is waiting for the right time to either kill or kidnap us and it happened in the past with people working for U.S. government.”

State Department officials say resources have been redeployed and wait times for Afghans have been reduced, but Farhad’s story does not generate confidence in the process.

Thanks to the efforts of Edwards and those he enlisted in his campaign, the interpreter’s chances to finally get to the United States have greatly improved. But it is still not clear how much longer he must wait for final approval.

The Afghans who put their lives on the line for Americans deserve better.

Congress should hold the State Department accountable and determine whether the Afghan Allies Protection Act is being efficiently administered.

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