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Bill to boost interpreter visas advances

May 23, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — More Iraqi and Afghan interpreters, frequently in danger in their home countries because of their association with Americans, would get U.S. visas under legislation passed in the House on Tuesday.

The bill, approved 412 to 8, would increase to 500 the number of special immigrant visas granted annually to interpreters.

A 2006 defense bill set at 50 the annual cap on visas for interpreters who had worked for the U.S. military for a year. There is a nine-year backlog in acting on those eligible for admission to the United States.

Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said interpreters had been singled out as collaborators, and "many are now targeted by death squads, militia and Al Qaeda."

"I believe it is right and just to offer refuge to those who have helped our troops and our nation," said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), sponsor of the House bill.

The measure passed by the House differs slightly from legislation the Senate passed last month.

Senate approval of the House version would send it to the president for his signature.

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