IRAP strives to ensure that the over 75,000 Iraqis and Afghans who are persecuted for their assistance to the United States are not forgotten as America’s physical presence in the region diminishes. Congress recognized that the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans who provided valuable support to American forces in those countries would face a backlash for their American affiliation, and created Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs for persecuted allies to seek refuge in the United States. IRAP is the foremost expert in, and advocate for, SIV cases and program reforms. Although IRAP’s role in the SIV process was at first procedural—pairing SIV applicants with pro bono attorneys and law students who could assist candidates in navigating the various administrative processes—our expertise quickly made us the leading policy advocate for making the SIV process more fair, efficient, and inclusive.
Over the past five years, IRAP has advocated for, and won, a number of legislative extensions to both the Iraqi and Afghan SIV programs; groundbreaking access to counsel and due process provisions, such as the right to appeal a ruling; greater administrative transparency; and, crucially, a dramatic increase in the number of visas issued and the speed with which visas are processed. IRAP helped ensure the passage of five pieces of legislation that guaranteed visas to U.S.-affiliated allies—with overwhelming bipartisan support—through the 113th Congress. These systemic victories have benefited over 120,000 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and Afghans.
MARINE CAPTAIN ZAMBARDA’S STORY
"During my year in Afghanistan, my interpreter was my voice. He allowed me to communicate critical information to the Afghan National Army, but more than that, he put his life on the line every single day, especially during our firefights. As Platoon Leader, my job was to move around the battlefield and make tough decisions. My interpreter shadowed me and did everything to help our mission, including shuttling ammunition and firing back. He wasn’t just another Afghan. He was a hero. He was my friend.
When I left Afghanistan, I told my interpreter that — if he wished – I would do everything in my power to get him to the United States. In 2010, I typed a recommendation letter that he included in his application for a Special Immigrant Visa, which should have allowed him to immigrate legally and permanently to the United States. But so far, his application — like thousands of others — has remained stalled. As a result, my interpreter is still trapped in Afghanistan, where he has since been wounded because of his service to America. As an IRAP volunteer, I have been dealing with the headache of trying to advance his application.
It pains me to think that, despite all of the incredible things he has done, my interpreter could end up executed by the Taliban. Not only has he sacrificed a great deal for our country and his, but he is also the kind of person who would be a good American. We swore to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, but instead, we are turning our backs on the Afghans who helped us. I believe it is our responsibility to honor our commitment to them and to make sure we give them a safe place to live out their lives."
-Captain Mark Zambarda, United States Marine Corps, IRAP-U.C. Berkeley School of Law