Afghan interpreter on becoming a US citizen
Janis Shinwari celebrates becoming an American citizen on ‘The Daily Briefing.’
A former combat translator who worked alongside American troops in Afghanistan told “The Daily Briefing” on Monday that becoming a U.S. citizen on Monday was “exciting.”
“It’s a very happy and exciting day for me and my family becoming a U.S. Citizen,” Janis Shinwari said on Monday, the day he and his two children became Americans in a ceremony presided over by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.
Shinwari is credited with saving the lives of at least five soldiers while targeted for death by the Taliban.
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Shinwari worked for eight years alongside Army troops while facing threats from Taliban militants over his collaboration with U.S. forces. Officials said he helped save the lives of five American soldiers, including Matt Zeller.
Zeller, then a captain, and other troops were ambushed by Taliban fighters in 2008 while in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province. At some point, two Taliban militants tried sneaking up behind him with the intent to kill.
“It was very tough especially when I found that my name was added to the Taliban kill list to kill me or a member of my family,” Shinwari told “The Daily Briefing” on Monday.
“It was very, very hard that I couldn’t see my family and my kids, my wife.”
He said that he stayed at the “base with the military” because being there was “more secure.”
He said he “couldn’t go out,” but every two to three months he would go out to go to the bank to go out and get money to support his family.
“This was my biggest fear that when I was going out without any military or without Americans, by myself to the city and getting money from the bank and giving it to my family, this was very scary time,” Shinwari said.
“I was always scared if they catch me, they will kill me and also my family,” he continued. “I was worried about my kids and my wife, and everybody.”
Like many translators in combat zones, Shinwari applied for a special immigrant visa, which was designed to give those working with American troops overseas asylum in the U.S. The programs authorizes 4,000 visas annually but has been plagued by long wait times.
A recent State Department report suggested the backlog has been made worse because only one person in the agency oversees the program.
Host Dana Dana Perino asked Shinwari if he knows others “that are waiting for this opportunity to become American citizens?”
“Yeah, we have a lot of them,” he said in response. He explained that “most of those interpreters” are in the U.S. waiting to become U.S. citizens, but there are “between 50 to 20,000 interpreters waiting in Afghanistan to get their visa and come to the United States.”
Shinwari explained that now that he’s a U.S. citizen his children can go to school.
“When we were back and Afghanistan, my kids they couldn’t go to school,” he said, adding that they “didn’t have a future” there, but now, in the U.S., “they have a good future.”
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He said his son and daughter “both go to school and they’re very happy here.”
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and Louis Casiano contributed to this report.
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