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Senate bill to strengthen visa program for Afghans who worked with U.S. military

A new billin the U.S. Senate would strengthen a visa program for some Afghans who worked alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, has been around for years. It allows Afghans who worked with the U.S. military as interpreters and within other roles to come to the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship.  

But the process was backlogged even before 2021, when the U.S. helped evacuate more than 70,000 Afghans from their country after U.S. forces withdrew and Taliban forces took control of the country. 

Many of those evacuees are in the U.S. with temporary immigration statuses and no path to citizenship, including hundreds in Arizona. The bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, aims to increase the number of SIV visas and extend the time they are valid.

Effortsto create a pathway to citizenship for Afghan evacuees failed in Congress last year.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.