In December 2005, when the war in Iraq was intensifying, President Bush praised those Iraqis who “put their lives on the line” for a free and democratic Iraq, in some cases by having the courage to defy the violence and cast ballots. President Bush insisted that the United States must not “abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need.”

Eight years later, Iraqis who put their lives on the line to help the United States are in their hour of need. They are waiting for a simple, promised act of gratitude, and it is urgent and necessary that it be provided. These are the Iraqis who risked their lives to work for the United States as interpreters during the war. They endured a double risk: the threat to life and limb on the battlefield and the quiet, dark threat of being targeted because of their ties to the United States.

Congress passed legislation earmarking visas over five years for these Iraqis, and later for a similar group who helped in Afghanistan. But the application process has been cumbersome and tortuous for many: They have waited – and waited.

The legislation lapsed Monday night, the end of the fiscal year. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fought with the help of Iraqi and Afghan peoples who subscribed to the noble goals of democracy and freedom. They took it on faith that the United States meant what it said.