Two US Congress members have proposed a bill that would permit 4,000 visas to the United States to be issued over a five-year period to former SDF fighters, interpreters, support staff, and others who have helped the US military. The goal of the bill is to provide protection in the United States for those who may face danger in Syria as a result of their work.
US Representative Jason Crow (D-CO) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) re-introduced the “Syrian Partner Protection Act,” a bill which would extend the a visa program to partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other personnel who supported the counter-ISIS mission, as well as their families.
“The American handshake needs to mean something. The Syrian Partner Protection Act honors the promise we made to our Syrian and Kurdish partners in Syria who have been our allies on the ground in the fight against ISIS,” said US Representative Jason Crow. “As a combat veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know firsthand that our alliances are built on trust. We must protect the friends who protected us.”
“Syrian Kurds played a pivotal role in helping the US defeat the ISIS Caliphate and have been an instrumental partner in the region,” said US Representative Mike Waltz. “Our Kurdish allies have put their lives on the line and risked retaliation to help advance US interests and fight our enemies. They deserve our gratitude for their assistance. The US Congress should acknowledge those who have fought alongside us on the battlefield.”
In the United States, many refer to the region of North and East Syria as “the Syrian Kurds.” As has been demonstrated through a survey project by Dr. Amy Austin Holmes, over 50 percent of the SDF consists of persons who identify as Arab. Many other ethnicities are represented as well, such as Syriac Christians, Yezidis, Alaawites, Turkmen, Armenians, and others. Despite comments by members of US Congress, the bill would apply not only to Kurds but to Syrians of any ethnicity.
According to the text of the bill, the stated purpose of the bill is “to provide for special immigrant status for Syrian Kurds and other Syrians who partnered with the United States Government in Syria, and for other purposes.” The bill is similar to prior programs that were enacted to protect Iraqi and Afghan translators, combat interpreters, soldiers, advisors, and other workers whose lives were endangered due to their work with the US government.
The bill was originally proposed by Rep Jason Crow in 2019, but it failed to be approved by the House of Representatives. A bill in US Congress must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, then signed by the US President, in order to become official US law.