President Joe Biden’s deputies are fast-tracking exit visas for many thousands of Afghan men ahead of the looming U.S. military withdrawal — but they face a legal hurdle if they also want to give visas to all the wives of applicants in polygamous Islamic marriages.
Polygamy may complicate Biden’s efforts to admit into the U.S. the families of Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), available to people who face threats because of work they did for the American government and military, many times risking their lives in combat zones.
Current U.S. government guidelines may require SIV applicants with several wives to break up their families to be eligible for admission into the United States, Breitbart News learned from the State Department, which oversees the visa application process.
Under current State Department guidelines, the spouse and unmarried children under age 21 may accompany Afghans who receive a special immigrant visa into the United States for working for the U.S. government and the American military —two distinct programs.
However, “in cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration,” the department notes when defining a “spouse” for immigration purposes.
Although the Pew Research Center reported in December 2020 that the practice is rare, polygamy is allowed in Afghanistan as in many other Muslim countries, courtesy of their sharia law-compliant constitution.
It can be found among different social groups in Afghanistan, including the rich and educated.
About 53,000 family members of Afghan allies, as those who worked for the U.S. government as translators, drivers, fixers, and in other roles are often called, have reportedly applied for a special immigrant visa.
Many Afghans have applied for an SIV to flee their country along with their family and avoid Taliban reprisals before Biden pulls out all American troops in the coming weeks.
President Biden agreed to withdraw the U.S. from Afghanistan by the upcoming anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that triggered the October 2001 American invasion to topple the Taliban regime for harboring al-Qaeda, the culprit of the attacks.
Although the U.S. removed the Taliban from power months after entering the country, the narco-jihadi group refused to surrender, pulling the United States into its longest war.
With the completion of the U.S military pullout reportedly expected as early as the middle of next month, Afghans who worked for the U.S. have expressed fear that the Taliban will target them and their families for helping the foreigners.
The Biden administration is working to approve as many SIVs as possible for Afghans who helped the U.S. military and American-led foreign forces during the nearly two-decade-long war.
“While we remain focused on the peace process, we also have a commitment to Afghans who served the U.S. government at great personal risk to themselves and their families,” a State Department spokesperson told Breitbart News. “As part of this commitment, we are processing Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications for those who qualify for this program as quickly as we possibly can.”
Still, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress believes that is not enough. So they want to end some eligibility requirements to admit more “Afghan allies” and their families into the United States.
The Biden administration has already processed a record number of SIV cases.
“All of these changes have resulted in, over the last couple of months, the largest number of cases processed in the history of the program in any 60-day period,” a senior administration official, speaking about Biden’s efforts to speed up the process, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“The plan is to process at least 1,000-1,400 visa applications for Afghans who worked for the United States, not including their families, every month,” Reuters noted.
In bipartisan legislation introduced in the House last week, the sponsors seek to increase the number of SIV recipients from Afghanistan by relaxing and eliminating some of the eligibility requirements and increasing the number of allotted special immigrant visas to 19,000, from 11,000.
Last Friday, the New York Times reported:
The bill would expand the universe of eligible Afghans by removing what its proponents call “burdensome” application requirements, including a “credible sworn statement” of a specific threat and proof of a “sensitive and trusted” job. Instead, the measure would in effect stipulate that any Afghan who helped the U.S. government by definition faced retribution, and should be able to apply for a visa.
Former President Donald Trump already signed a bill in December 2020 that extends the Afghan SIV program to those who “were employed by” or “on behalf of the U.S. government,” increasing the universe of eligible applicants.
While some U.S. lawmakers and the Biden administration want to expand the special immigrant visa program for Afghans, federal investigators have found that a similar effort in Iraq is plagued with fraudulent claims.