Expedite visas for Iraqis who worked for U.S. military
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Iraqi citizens who worked with the U.S. military are being left high and dry as our troops are pulled out of Iraq. Iraqi interpreters and other Iraqis who helped our troops are viewed as traitors by other Iraqis and their lives are at risk. Many of them have already received security clearances, but they are caught up in red tape in getting visas. Please help secure visas to the U.S. for these brave individuals who worked side by side with our military.
"Tariq," an Iraqi interpreter for the U.S. military who lived on the base with U.S. soldiers, wrote in the Los Angeles Times (11/7/11 - Opinion section) about the dangers and abandonment they face with the U.S. pullout:
"Like thousands of interpreters, I had been living full time on U.S. military bases because it was the only way to remain safe from the threats against me. Then, on Oct. 13, my job — and my safety — ended. After a small ceremony with my unit and close friends, I was escorted off the base where I had lived for the last nine months. Since then I have been in hiding, constantly on the run, constantly looking back. I feel as if I am in a prison. There are no guards, but I can't leave my cell because I will be killed.
My fellow interpreters and I were promised by the U.S. government that special visas would be made available for us to move to the United States if our lives were put in danger by our work for the military. Congress backed up that promise by passing a law setting aside 5,000 such "special immigrant visas" per year for Iraqis.
But the process is broken. The program is going so slowly, it is barely a program at all. In August, according to American news reports, a mere 10 visas were issued, and that is typical. We all have been told that our applications are on "administrative hold" while the U.S. runs security clearances on us (even though we already have gone through exhaustive security checks to get clearance to be on the bases). We are despairing at this point, and we worry that the U.S. government is closing the door on us. The looming pullout leaves us in extreme jeopardy as the Americans not only continue to delay issuing us visas but also expel us from the only safe places for us in Iraq.
My fellow interpreters and I have worked as one with your military. We shared pain and laughter; we shared the same objectives. We grieved together over fallen colleagues.
Here is what I would now ask of the Americans: Please help us. Let us come to the United States. I can promise you we will work hard and be productive and good citizens. Please, please expedite our visas. We may not be able to hold our breath much longer."
Please help Tariq and the thousands of other Iraqi civilians who put their lives in jeopardy to do what they thought was right -- helping the U.S. during its war in Iraq. Please expedite visas for these individuals so that they are not killed because of their help to American soldiers.
For more information, see
Tariq's article in the LA Times 11/7/11: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-tariq-iraq-translators-visa-20111107,0,1746351.story
Human Rights First article on impact of US pullout on vulnerable Iraqis: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2011/10/25/final-troop-withdrawal-should-not-signal-end-of-u-s-commitment-to-the-most-vulnerable-iraqis/
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