EXCLUSIVE: Cheers erupted at Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C. as an Afghan combat translator, his wife and four young children arrived at the baggage carousel after a harrowing three and a half year wait for a Special Immigrant Visa after risking his life working for the U.S. military and facing death threats from the Taliban as U.S. troops hasten their withdrawal.
"Although it was a long journey for us, the visa process took a long time, like three and a half years, but finally [we] made it," the man who asked not to be identified told Fox News. "I feel safe. You know, I feel really good because I survived from many threats."
Fearful the Taliban will target his family back in Afghanistan he asked that Fox News refer to him by a pseudonym: Sediq. He received his SIV visa on May 27 – one of the few that the State Department has approved despite the 18,000 Afghans who have provided the documentation that they worked for the U.S. government and are still waiting. Visa approval has slowed to a trickle despite promises from State Department officials to expedite them.
Asked if he is worried about those left behind, Sediq answered, "Of course. Of course. We hope that they should not get forgotten and they should get fully supported and they should receive their visa like me, and they should come to the United States and start a better life."
And if they don’t receive help from the U.S. government before U.S. troops leave this summer?
"The bad guys will find them and they will kill them," Sediq said before heading to the airport Marriott with his children who were handed American flags and flowers when they landed by U.S. military veterans from the American Legion, No One Left Behind and Keeping Our Promise, Rochester who waited for 3 hours to greet Sediq and his family with t-shirts saying "Welcome Home."
Another group of 5 Afghans, who said they had worked for the CIA in Kunar Province, before receiving their Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) three years ago awaited a cousin, who also had worked for the U.S. government and was arriving from Kabul on the same flight as Sediq. They showed Fox News photos of them with one of their CIA bosses who had come to visit them at their new home in D.C. from West Virginia. They said they have started a new life in the U.S. and are driving for Uber to make ends meet.
When their cousin emerged Fox News asked him about his family members who were not able to join him due to last minute bureaucratic hurdles from the U.S. embassy.
"They want to come all our family to here because to be safe," the Afghan SIV who asked that Fox News use only one name, Hekmatyar, to disguise his identity. "Right now in Afghanistan, my family and my kid, they are not coming outside. Somebody kidnap him and somebody kill him, they want to kill him."
And then there was Sam - an Iraqi translator who became the State Department's first Special Immigrant visa recipient in 2006 and now serves in the U.S. Air Force - he came to welcome Sediq and his family to America. He became a U.S. citizen in 2012 and now works at Andrews Air Force Base.
"I was in their shoes over 15 years ago. And I really appreciated the fact that I was welcomed by a lot of people and those who made me feel that this is my home now," Sam told Fox News.
He testified to Congress in 2007 about the dangers faced by those working with the U.S. military.
Sen. Ted Kennedy took up his case at the time and the Special Immigrant Visa program was born.
"I honestly believed I would be killed. I too have been targeted for my death," Sam told the Senate Judiciary Committee from behind a screen. "My name was listed on the doors of several mosques calling for my death. Suppose a friend of mine saw my name on the list and turned on me because they believed I was a traitor?" That is the fear shared by those who worked with the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I've seen this scenario in Iraq and I would hate to see it happen again in Afghanistan," Sam said in an interview with Fox News.
"I've actually lost personal friends and colleagues who supported the Americans."
U.S. officials say there is no plan to evacuate these Afghan translators. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said this recently on CNN's "State of the Union": "Evacuation is the wrong word. We're determined to make good on our obligation to those who helped us, who put their lives on the line, put their families' lives on the line working with our military, working with our diplomats."
But the U.S. Embassy visa section is closed for interviews due to a recent COVID outbreak, meaning Sediq may be one of the last Special Immigrant Visas stamped before the U.S. military pulls out completely, which could happen as early as July 4.
Lawmakers are demanding President Biden act or order an evacuation before it's too late.
Former Army Ranger Cong Jason Crow of Colorado served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has joined forces with Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., a former Green Beret who held a press conference in front of the Capitol Wednesday.
"We are here today to urge the Biden administration. To do the right thing and to evacuate those who stood by us at great personal risk," Crow said. Waltz added a direct challenge to Biden who famously said in 1975 that the U.S. did not have an obligation to evacuate those Vietnamese who worked with the U.S. military and government.
"I want to be clear, if he doesn't act and he doesn't get these people out, blood will be on his hands and on his administration's hands," Waltz said. "And I, for one, will very publicly and very loudly hold him accountable for that."
Crow added: "There is a moral imperative at play here. The American handshake has to mean something."
Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., added from the House floor: "President Biden ended the remain in Mexico policy for economic migrants but insists on remain in Afghanistan policy for Afghans who risked their lives to help American forces. While they wait the Taliban are hunting them down. Dozens have already been killed while bureaucrats dither. We cannot abandon our Afghan allies to die."
18,000 Afghans who risked their lives for the U.S. government are awaiting their fate in Afghanistan as U.S. troops pack up and leave.