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Waltz Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Syrian Kurds

 On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) and Jason Crow (D-Colo.) introduced legislation to extend the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to Syrian Kurdish fighters who assisted in counter-ISIS operations in Syria.

H.R. 4873, the Syrian Partner Protection Act, would extend the Special Immigrant Visa program to Syrian Kurdish fighters who assisted in counter-ISIS operations. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Don Bacon (R-Maine), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).

“The Syrian Kurds have stood side by side with the United States in the fight against ISIS,” Waltz said. “As a special forces officer, working with allies and fostering those relationships was critical to mission success. Our Kurdish allies put their lives and the lives of their families on the line, risking retaliation, to help us fight terrorism. They deserve our country’s gratitude.”

The bill mirrors similar programs enacted during the Bush Administration for Iraqi and Afghan translators, interpreters, soldiers, advisors and other workers whose lives were threatened because of their work in support of the U.S. mission.

“The American handshake needs to mean something. This bill is about the promise we made to our partners, in this case, the men and women of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who have been our primary ally on the ground in the fight against ISIS,” said Crow. “As a former combat soldier, I know firsthand that the bedrock of our alliances are built on trust. The decision to leave Syria undermines the commitment we made to our Kurdish allies and the belief that we are a resolute ally. We must protect the friends who protected us.”

“It is critical that the United States doesn’t leave our Syrian-Kurdish allies vulnerable,” said Blumenauer. “I was proud to help create the Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa programs with Senator John McCain and I look forward to working with my colleagues to offer the same path to safety for this community.”

“Our Kurdish allies in Syria saved American lives and risked their own to protect Americans and our allies from ISIS,” Moulton said. “This bill is about showing that the American people have the backs of the people who keep us safe, and reassuring our allies that cooperating with Americans on the ground isn't a death sentence.”

Waltz has firsthand experience working with local allies as a Green Beret, working closely with many local Afghans during his service in the War on Terror. Years later, Waltz’s Afghan interpreter was followed from a U.S. military base to his home. Terrorists dragged him and his family members outside their house and beheaded them for working with U.S. forces.

Text of the bill can be found here.