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John Oliver takes on the US’s shameful failure to protect Iraqi and Afghan translators

Another week, another John Oliver video to make you explode into a rage-ball that burns with the power of a thousand suns.

This week, Oliver took on the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqi and Afghan translators — or rather, that program's complete failure to provide visas in a timely or effective manner.

Translators who assisted American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan face death threats and terrible violence from militant groups in those countries. The SIV program was intended to protect them, by allowing them to immigrate to the United States with their families. But by that standard the SIV program has been a total failure. Oliver points out that the program issued only three visas to Afghan translators in 2011, even though Congress had authorized a total of 1500 visas that year.

That would be a failure for any visa program, but in this case, it left people's lives at risk — people who are at risk in large part for helping Americans. Oliver interviewed a translator named Mohammed who worked with American troops in Afghanistan in the hope of helping to rebuild his country. His visa took years to arrive, during which time the Taliban repeatedly targeted his family, including by murdering his father, attempting to kill his brothers, and kidnapping his three-year-old brother, whom Mohammed described as "the person I love most in the world."

Oliver drove home the absurdity of the program's failure by presenting the case of another Iraqi "evacuee" who is now safe in the US after his visa was processed in a matter of months: Smoke the Donkey, an actual donkey who was adopted by the marines in Iraq, and then brought to the US, where he lived out the rest of his days at an equine therapy farm in Nebraska.

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