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TEL AVIV – The text of the Senate’s immigration-reform bill contains a small section that increases by more than threefold the number of Afghans eligible for immigration to the U.S. under a special asylum program, WND has learned.

The legislation also further expands the previously strict qualifications for immigration from Afghanistan and allows for more family members to join admitted asylum seekers.

Page 450 of the 1,190 page immigration bill amends what is known as the 2009 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program. That program, set to expire this year, is now extended to 2018 by the immigration bill.

The special program previously allotted up to 1,500 visas for Afghans each year. The new immigration bill increases the visa quota to up to 5,000 Afghans per year, a difference detected by reading both the bill and the previous program.

The strict requirements of the previous program granted visas only to Afghan nationals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan on or after Oct. 7, 2001, for a period of one year or more. All applicants were required to demonstrate that they faced security threats due to their employment with the U.S.

The immigration bill now extends the qualifications beyond only those employed by the U.S. government.

The new legislation admits Afghans who worked for media or non-governmental organizations headquartered in the U.S.

Also now qualified are Afghans employed by “an organization or entity closely associated with the United States mission in Afghanistan that has received United States Government funding through an official and documented contract, award, grant, or cooperative agreement.”

The former program granted visas to the spouses of those who qualified for asylum as well as to unmarried children younger than age 21.

The new bill now expands the asylum to siblings and parents.

The information on the Afghan visa program follows increased news media scrutiny on terrorists and extremists admitted into the U.S. under similar programs.

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Chechen brothers suspected of carrying out the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, immigrated to the U.S. as refugees in 2002.

Asylum to accused Chechen terror leader

The Tsarnaev brothers are not the only controversial Chechen refugees admitted to the U.S.

WND previously reported that with the help of President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a high-ranking Chechen separatist leader accused of terrorism by Russia was granted political asylum in the U.S. and lived for a period of time in Boston.

Ilyas Akhmadov, who also served as Chechnya’s foreign minister, insists he was falsely accused by the Kremlin.

He has been on Russia’s most-wanted list, charged with organizing terrorist training camps and armed insurgent actions. Despite Russian objections, Akhmadov now lives in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. said it could find no links to terror.

Akhmadov was once the deputy to the radical Chechen Islamist leader Shamil Basayev, who was killed in 2006 before being described by ABC News as “one of the most-wanted terrorists in the world.”

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