Sunday night’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO featured a compelling and hilarious segment about the large backlog of Afghan translators awaiting Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). As Oliver noted, translators in Afghanistan and Iraq who have risked their lives by serving as liaisons between the U.S. military and local populations have become targets of anti-American violence. Unfortunately, efforts to escape danger in their home countries are largely unsuccessful due to the bureaucratic difficulties faced when applying for a visa through the SIV program. As Oliver showed with his exasperated breakdown of the 14 steps required for getting a visa, the application process can take years to successfully complete.
“Things have improved slightly recently, thanks in part to pressure from groups like The List Project and IRAP. But it is still not moving fast enough,” Oliver rightly complained. He argued that the SIV program “should not be like a lottery, where the odds are terrible. It should be more like a little league award ceremony, where everyone’s a winner.” We agree.
As The PBEye has previously reported, pro bono lawyers have a critical role to play in providing legal services to these Afghan and Iraqi allies, whose lives are at risk because of the assistance they provided in country to the U.S. Organizations such as The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), which Oliver recognizes, are working with pro bono attorneys in order to help those allies navigate the visa application process.
PBI will be honoring IRAP at the 2014 PBI Annual Dinner, taking place on November 6 at Gotham Hall in New York. The CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award, which recognizes innovative team approaches to pro bono work, will be presented to American International Group, Inc.** in partnership with IRAP for their provision of pro bono legal assistance to refugees.
Check out the video and we hope to see you in New York!
** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge®