Congress: Extend lifesaving legislation for interpreters who helped US troops in Iraq
  • Petitioned President of the United States

This petition was delivered to:

President of the United States
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives

Congress: Extend lifesaving legislation for interpreters who helped US troops in Iraq

    1. Petition by

      Brent Finnell and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) - Charlotte School of Law Chapter

  1.  
  2.   
October 2013

Victory

On October 4, President Obama signed an extension of the visa program for Iraqi interpreters through 2013 after the bill passed in Congress. Brent says, "My interpreter from Iraq, Mr. Z, is amazed at the tremendous outpouring of support and wishing he could thank each one of you individually. We couldnt have done it without the support from Change.org, phone calls and emails, media coverage, and the continued love and respect of our Iraqi allies. Its our duty to save these families that have lost everything and are facing torture, kidnapping, and death for saving tens of thousands of American lives." While the visa program for our Iraqi allies has been extended, there are still numerous improvements to the program that should be made in the months ahead. Please "like" the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/IraqiRefugeeAssistanceProject), and visit their website (http://refugeerights.org/) to stay involved.

Having served in Iraq, I know how many Iraqis have given back to assist US troops -- now it’s time for us to help them and we need Congress to help.

While serving in Baghdad in 2009-2010 during my deployment with the North Carolina National Guard, I got to know Mr. Z. He served as my Joint Security Station's (JSS) handyman and foreman of all the work projects going on at our small company sized outpost. Mr. Z fixed countless appliances, repaired and built showers, delivered beds and refrigerators for water, replaced frayed electrical lines which had caused minor injuries one soldier, coordinated the hiring of garbage men, mechanics, crane operators for the removal of barrier walls in the local neighborhoods, and helped to recover two stolen generators. Mr. Z always came to work with a smile on his face, delivered presents and food for the soldiers, and even surprised us with the gift of a Christmas tree to remind us of home. 

At that time I was only a specialist Infantry soldier and it wasn't until after I returned to the states, completed my undergrad degree, enrolled in law school, and joined the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) that I learned of Mr. Z's other sacrifices. Before I arrived in Iraq, Mr. Z had served as a voluntary translator and intelligence asset, risked his life conducting surveillance of insurgent groups, and maintained a handful of small bases and outposts around Baghdad.

Mr. Z and his family (wife, son, daughter) are still in hiding in Iraq and are terrified of what may happen. Since the Iraq War began, the family has received death threats and been placed on a "hit-list.” Their home was invaded by members of the Mahdi Army, it was looted, and then burnt down as punishment for his assistance to the US military. One of the major threats Mr. Z has faced is the potential for kidnapping after a bounty was placed for his capture by local criminal and paramilitary forces which the government has be unable and unwilling to stop. 

Through a program established as part of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act in 2007, the thousands of Iraqi nationals like Mr. Z who interpret and work for US troops are eligible to apply for special visas to escape danger in their country. (Section 1244 of Public Law 110-181, amended by Public Law 110-242). A similar program exists for interpreters from Afghanistan. Since October 2010, Mr. Z had been trying to get approval for a visa, but because he was paid in cash as our handyman and foreman and interpreted voluntarily, it had been difficult to establish his employment without a written contract and Mr. Z had almost given up. However, IRAP was able to help and he was finally granted COM approval in May 2013. His Special Immigrant Visa resettlement application is now pending with the National Visa Center. 

According to the U.S. State Department, only about 22% of the visas avalible to Iraqis under the SIV program have been distributed. Both the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and US Embassy in Iraq announced, "No matter what stage of the process you are in, all selected and eligible applicants must obtain their visa by [11:59 p.m. EDT on] September 30, 2013." Unless Congress extends the SIV program for Iraqis, Mr. Z and thousands of applicants who have fought for years to slowly advance through lengthy visa process will be immediately rejected. This expiration also includes all spouses and unmarried children accompanying or following to join the applicant.

The visa program for interpreters who provide vital services for the US military saves lives, but it’s due to expire on September 30, 2013. The people like Mr. Z who provide critical services and risk their lives to help us need and deserve this program to protect them from the dangers they face for assisting us. Please join me in calling on Congress to extend the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act before it’s too late for thousands like Mr. Z.

To learn more information about IRAP, please visit www.refugeerights.org. Also please note that some of our clients are LGBT cases, widows, orphaned children, and some are refugees that did not have a connection to the US military (these however come under a different visa program), but IRAP still tries to help as many as we can to resettle!

 

Thank you,

Brent Finnell

Charlotte School of Law

J.D. Candidate 2014

To:
President of the United States
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives
Renew lifesaving legislation for resettlement of interpreters who helped US troops in Iraq by extending the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program of The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Extended by Congress! Now its your turn Mr. President!

      Imperiled Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program wins extension from House, headed for presidential signature

      The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program, which was scheduled to expire at the end of the just-finished fiscal year, won a last-minute reprieve when the House of Representatives passed an extension that had previously been passed by the Senate. Now the extension heads to the White House for the president's signature.

    2. Government Shutdown and SIV update.

      Thank you to the Senate for taking the initiative to pass the SIV legislation as a standalone bill! Now, its the House's turn to act.

      http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/325693-senate-passes-bill-to-grant-visas-for-iraqis-who-helped-the-us-military

      On a positive note, the Senate's actions have raised awareness with the House and Rep. Eric Cantor R.-Va. office's, a huge SIV supporter, is currently working on the SIV crisis. Please continue pouring in signatures and thank Rep. Cantor for his continued efforts!

      I again express my thanks to Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., John McCain, R-Ariz., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., for passing the standalone bill in the Senate.

      Senate passes bill to grant visas for Iraqis who helped the US military

      The Senate passed a bill Monday night that would extend visas for Iraqis who have worked with U.S. military personnel during the war. Through a unanimous consent agreement the Senate passed S. 1566. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill was critical to people's safety.

    3. Great progress today!

      Thank you Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., John McCain, R-Ariz., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C. for the hard work and compassion! Lets see this get passed!

      http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/article/20130925/NEWS05/309250036/Bill-would-extend-visa-program-interpreters-1-year

    4. Great speech by Rep. Blumenauer this morning on protecting our Iraqi allies

      Blumenauer Warns of the Deadline to Extend the Special Immigrant Visa Program

      In 2007, I introduced the first legislation to help the Iraqi and Afghan nationals who helped Americans in those countries, to try and get them to safety in the United States. These were the people who were interpreters, guides, drivers; people who performed countless tasks, without which our military, diplomatic, and redevelopment efforts would have been impossible.

    5. Reached 75,000 signatures
    6. Reached 50,000 signatures
    7. Reached 20,000 signatures
    8. Over 8,000!

      Thank you for the support! Over 8,000 signatures and a little over 2 weeks until the legislation expires. Please keep sharing the link and information to pressure Congress to act.

    9. Reached 8,000 signatures
    10. Over 650! We've exploded!

      GREAT response, we've came up by over 500 signatures in only a few hours! In response I changed the group picture of myself with a young Iraqi boy. Unfortunately, he was killed not long after my unit left in 2010. He loved America and the US military. These are some the people we are trying to save! Mr. Z has a wife, son, and daughter who hope to come with him if this legislation is renewed.

    11. Reached 500 signatures
    12. Awesome Response so far but we can do more!

      We have now pass over 150 signatures and I sincerely appreciate every single one of you for taking the time to help. Please continue to share the link and Mr. Z's story so Congress is reminded of our Iraqi friends even though other stories are dominating the news headlines.

    13. Reached 100 signatures
    14. Reached 50 signatures
    15. Reached 10 signatures
    16. Reached 5 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Alice Chamberlain CRANSTON, RI
      • 11 months ago

      My Husband was a Veteran from ww2 an I know that he would def. want to help these people they went out on a limb to help us !!!!!!!!!!!!! Alice Chamberlain

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Matt Rulli SCOTTSDALE, AZ
      • 12 months ago

      I served in Fallujah Iraq in 2005-2006, and the interpreters I had the privilege of working with were incredible people. They deserve all the help we can muster.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • J.C. (Max) Wilkinson CHARLESTON, WV
      • 12 months ago

      I am a fellow OIF/OEF vet and have helped another interpreter myself. The SIV was critical to getting him to safety.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Irmgard Haarmann AUSTRALIA
      • 12 months ago

      they helped us in the war against terrorism and now they need our help to protect them and it's only fair that we help them.if they're left behind in their country, they face persecution and possible death.please in the name of humanity and decency protect and help them.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Lowell Boardman SANTA BARBARA, CA
      • 12 months ago

      There is only one reliably accurate intel source. In country operatives willing to risk their lives to provide intel.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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