WILMINGTON — One of Fayette County’s congressman is co-sponsoring a bill that would authorize 4,000 special visas for Afghans and Iraqis to come to America after having served alongside U.S. troops in their countries.
Their service put a target on their back and on their families by ISIS and other militants, and so they seek safety in the United States, said U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio 15th District).
Stivers, who was in Wilmington on Monday, said the legislation relates to a very specific issue that isn’t about regular immigration. The eligible Afghans served as interpreters and support staff, and thus will be fairly easy to vet, the congressman said.
“I think they’ve already proven their loyalty by standing next to us as we got shot at,” said Stivers, who was a battalion commander during the most recent U.S./Iraq war.
So it is about the American government keeping its word, as well as about looking out for the future safety of American armed forces because “next time we go who’s going to want to help us” if allies can’t seek safety in the United States, Stivers said.
Special immigrant visa programs have already admitted Iraqi and Afghan citizens, but over time all the available slots were used, he said.
The House bill is co-sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats.
Stivers thinks President Trump will sign the bill into law if it gets through the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The U.S. Department of Defense is in favor of the legislation, said the congressman.
Stivers, who is in the Ohio Army National Guard and was deployed to the Middle East during hostilities, was asked about current tensions between the United States and Iran.
He said Iran has publicly admitted violating the Iran nuclear program deal, and has attacked oil tankers.
“I think we do need to stand up to Iran, and we need to make sure that we send the right signals,” said Stivers.
He said he was glad when the president decided against an air attack against Iran, and thinks there needs to be negotiations and conversations.
Stivers is not opposed to economic sanctions on Iran and anybody that does business with Iran “now that they’ve attacked EU [European Union] and UK [United Kingdom] ships in the region.”
The U.S. response doesn’t need to be about military action, he said, “because the biggest weapon we have in this country is the economy. We need to leverage that to encourage that rogue nations play by the rules.”
As background, Iranian President Hassan Rohani announced the decision to surpass the agreed limit of enriched uranium on the first anniversary of President Trump’s May 2018 exit from the nuclear deal.
Before Stivers left Wilmington City Hall on Monday afternoon for the Wilmington Air Park, he noted that there is a new commander at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers division in Cincinnati. Stivers has assisted the City of Wilmington on an issue where it has been contesting water billing fees related to purchasing water from Caesar Creek Lake through the Army Corps of Engineers.
He plans to visit with the new Corps commander and talk to him about why the issue is important to resolve.
Stivers said he hopes to reach a common understanding with the new commander and resolve the matter without a lawsuit.
The congressman also hinted there could be local good news on the jobs front in the coming months.
“I want to see some more job announcements hopefully soon; I’m looking forward to some at the air park and others in other places in Wilmington. I’m looking forward to hopefully being at something that’s a big job announcement in the next few months,” he said.
“There are a few folks I think interested in this area and we hope they choose this area because I think it’d be great for the economy and great for jobs here,” added Stivers.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.