Afghans with SIVs: The Smartest Drivers Around   

I’ve had many Afghan drivers over the years and most of them have been highly educated – lawyers, managers, information technology specialists, etc.   Almost all came to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) that they received because their involvement with American-supported projects and programs in Afghanistan put themselves and their families at risk.   Driving gives them a chance to make money while they determine how to get back involved in their preferred professions.  My wife, a friend and I had a good discussion with Aarash (not real name) on the way into Washington DC.  An engineer by training, he is driving until he can find work in his field – which I hope he is able to do soon.

Sarah:  Are you from Afghanistan?

Aarash: Yes, but how did you know that?

Sarah:  I’ve worked in Afghanistan – I thought I recognized your name.

Iris:  I’ve been there as well.  It’s a beautiful country.

Aarash:  Yes, but there are many problems.  It is very dangerous right now.

Sarah:  Where is your family from in Afghanistan?

Aarash:  We came from Kabul.

Sarah:  When did you come to the United States?

Aarash: I have been in the United States for a year.  I lived in Richmond for several months but it was very slow and there are few opportunities.  I was working in a Wal-Mart.  That is why I came to Alexandria.  My wife and children joined me several months ago. 

Iris:  It’s great that you were able to bring over your family so quickly. 

Aarash:  It is because I came here on a Special Immigrant Visa.   I am a civil engineer and I worked with Americans in Afghanistan.  The Taliban threatened me and my family so we had to leave.  We were all in danger.

Iris:  Are there things that you miss about Afghanistan?

Aarash: Here we are safe.  But every time you gain something, you lose something.  That is how life is.  I miss my family who are still in Kabul – my mother, my father, my brother.  In my culture it is normal for everyone to live in the same household and to eat meals together at one large table.  We are together whenever we can be.  It is not like that here.

Iris: And your family is safe in Kabul?

Aarash:  They are safe, thanks to God.  I just hope that someday they will be able to join me here.  It will be hard on my parents adjusting to a new culture but we would be safe and together. 

Bryan:  And how long have you been driving? 

Aarash: Just two weeks now.  I usually drive in the mornings and I intend to do this just until I find something in my field of expertise.  I have an interview soon to become a field technician.

Bryan:  Our stop is over there.  Good luck with your interview!

Comment:  If you are interested in learning more, the New York Times published an article on August 9
th entitled “They Will Kill Us:  Afghan Translators Plead for Delayed U.S. Visas  and more information on the program itself is available through the U.S State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.