CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- On Friday, The Independence Fund joined sixteen organizations to write an open letter to Congress and President Biden urging them to evacuate our fellow warriors in Afghanistan and Iraq, the interpreters and other support forces eligible for the Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) and their families, as quickly as possible.
"Given the US military personnel and Veterans we serve, and the close bonds they developed in combat with their Afghan counterparts the past 20 years, we support other non-governmental organizations to identify and extract potentially qualifying Afghan families to safety, while simultaneously working with Members of Congress, and the Executive Branch to demand none of these Afghan Allies are abandoned to the brutality of the Taliban," said Sarah Verardo, CEO of The Independence Fund.
In the letter, the group wrote, "Now is the time to act. Last week, last month, last year were all the times to act as well, but those necessary actions were not taken, and our fellow warriors in Afghanistan and Iraq, the interpreters and other support forces eligible for the Special Immigration Visas (SIVs), need our government to act now. Today. This hour."
This week, The Independence Fund joined forces with No One Left Behind and Mighty Oaks Foundation to form a coalition named, "Save Our Allies" dedicated to saving our Afghan and Iraqi Allies who served side-by-side with U.S. Armed Forces and working to ensure our Veterans are getting the care needed after bravely serving our nation.
An open letter to Congress and the President of the United States:
Now is the time to act. Last week, last month, last year were all the times to act as well, but those necessary actions were not taken, and our fellow warriors in Afghanistan and Iraq, the interpreters and other support forces eligible for the Special Immigration Visas (SIVs), need our government to act now. Today. This hour.
The signatory veteran and military support organizations below represent and serve US combat veterans who served side-by-side with Afghan and Iraqi personnel, who believe these fellow warriors deserve our support and protection, and who believe the US government has failed in its responsibilities to these Coalition and allied forces. Whether it be through avoidable and unnecessary delays in the processing of the SIV applications, or the abandonment of these fellow warriors to the doubtful mercies of the Taliban forces, we have failed as a country to honor our commitments. That must be reversed now.
First, if an Afghan national is at Karzai International Airport, or any other airport US or friendly forces control, they need to be airlifted out as soon as we've secured the necessary transportation for US citizens and citizens of treaty ally countries who need US assistance. We realize those with pending SIV applications likely cannot be brought directly to the territorial limits of the 50 United States, but they must be evacuated from Afghanistan and taken to a safe haven, whether that be a partner third-country, or an overseas US military facility like Sigonella IT, Rota SP, Guam, or even Guantanamo Bay, to name a few. The U.S. evacuation mission should not end on August 31st, if at least 50,000 SIV applicants and their family members have not been evacuated.
Second, the US government must dramatically increase and expedite the processing of the SIV applications. No evacuation, especially to a non-US territory location, should be delayed while awaiting this processing. The US government has the means to process these applications outside of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it must dedicate the resources necessary, as well as modify the application processes where necessary, to get these possibly eligible Afghan and Iraqi personnel and their families to safety. The processing of these visa applications should be elevated to the highest of priorities as soon possible, recognizing the clear and immediate danger under which these potential SIV applicants, and their families, live.
Third, given the emergent and immediate need to process these applications, we recommend an Interagency Task Force – led by Department of Defense to take advantage of its extensive experience with non-combatant evacuation operations, as well as its National Guard and Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer resources – be established immediately to significantly expand and accelerate the State Department's processes.
Fourth, the US government must establish an annual budget line through the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, to support community programs which then support SIV applicants in the US. A SIV specific general grant program to which community organizations could apply may be a good first start.
Many of us heard during our military service, often from the foreign nationals with whom we serve, "America is great, because America is good." At this time, with regards to these fellow Afghan and Iraqi warriors, we do not believe America is doing the good it must, and so therefore is at considerable danger of losing some of its greatness. Please don't let this happen on your watch. Fix this now.
We are all dedicated to making the transition for these fellow warriors as seamless and welcoming as possible, and we are ready to assist the US government and these SIV applicants and families now. Please put us to work.
No One Left Behind The Independence Fund Mighty Oaks Foundation AMVETS Heroes Athletic Association Association of the U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officers Association of the USCG Sea Service Family, Foundation Armed Forces Marketing Council National Defense Committee America's Warrior Partnership Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States Healing Household 6 United Valor Military Order of the Purple Heart Reserve Organization of America Special Operations Association of America
ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND: Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund (501c3) is committed to empowering our nation's catastrophically wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty. The Independence Fund is dedicated to improving the lives of Veterans and their families by providing tangible impact. Through the Fund's Mobility, Caregiver, Adaptive Sports, Advocacy, Suicide Prevention, Family, and Crisis Relief programs, The Independence Fund strives to bridge the gap of unmet needs for Veterans and their caregivers. The Independence Fund believes in fairness and equality for all veterans and families irrespective of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, and will continue to uphold these American values.