Iraqi Interpreters Wait for Promised U.S. Visas

Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2011


When he served as an interpreter for the U.S. military, Tariq lived on a secure base, safe from fellow Iraqis determined to kill him because of his service to America. But when the unit he served pulled out of Iraq on Oct. 13, he was dismissed and escorted off the base.

The U.S. government promised Tariq and thousands of other former interpreters that they would be first in line for special visas to the United States. But with the pace of visa approvals having slowed to a crawl, that promise rings hollow to Tariq, who stays locked in his parents’ home, working the phone and the Internet to track his application.


The visa process, always slow and cumbersome, has bogged down further since two Iraqi refugees were arrested in Kentucky in May on federal terrorism charges that included providing material support in the United States for al-Qaida.


The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, passed in 2008, provided fast-track status for Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. government or military.

The law authorized 5,000 special visas per year–20,000 through 2011. But through October, just 3,415 had been issued to Iraqis, according to the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.

The State Department says 7,362 Iraqis who worked for the United States have received special visas over that period, but that total includes family members.

Through July, 62,500 Iraqis had applied through the special visa program, though many have given up and dropped out.


In the meantime, thousands of former interpreters have been cast adrift, threatened by insurgents as they wait for the federal bureaucracy to act.



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  • Anonymous

    Well America, this is what happens when you invade the world. Note how America’s disastrous intervention in Vietnam led to the establishment of Vietnamese in America.

  • Sonya

    Well, it is not fair, but hardly surprising. They were stupid to have trusted the Americans. I am sure quite a few other Iraqis do see them as traitors and for good reason.

    During Gulf War one the US dropped leaflets to encourage the Shi’ites to rise up and overthrow Saddam. Then the US walked away and left the Shi’ites at the mercy of Saddam, they say some were killed in baths of acid.

  • Anonymous

    The need for Iraqis to be in America or any other White country, does not exist.

    While I never supported the Iraq War, we have supposedly “pulled out” of their country, so why do they need to come to ours?

    Neoconservatism sucks.

  • WR the elder

    Inevitably when we have another foreign war, whether we win it, lose it, or simply muddle through, we get a zillion “refugees” from the country we helped destroy. This is yet another reason to favor Ron Paul’s noninterventionist foreign policy.

  • Mr.White

    Why is it that when America intervenes militarily on behalf of a foreign country, we end up bringing half the country back with us? There are entire Vietnamese enclaves here in OC, California, where these people live as if they are still in Vietnam. No English, no assimilation, no anything but thatch lined storefronts and a whole lot of Vietnamese signage.

    I have taken notice that many of the elders seem to have a penchant for driving luxury vehicles, which is dumbfounding, since the majority likely spent their formative years squatting in rice patties. Most of them speak no English.

    I wonder how they manage to live a life of luxury, with no identifiable means of income and no ability to speak English in America. Someone is paying for that BMW…

  • Skipper

    Wait … the American public has been informed that Iraq is now secure, and a unified nation?? So these Iraqi interpreters should have no fear of persecution by staying in Iraq.

    But perhaps in reality the Iraq war was just a series of lies from beginning to end. Regardless, the Iraqis have no business in the United States and should settle their internal affairs without our intervention.

  • waspranger

    Thats right Skipper, let them stay in Iraq, and let them be leaders there in their own country, after all they will be the ones who have more knowledge, more intelligence. I agree 1000% with your revelation on the whole Iraq fandango, nonsense from beginning to end, problem though, it will never end. Despite are “PULLING OUT” we will be involved with this country and its people forever, this wanting Iragis to come here to live is only the beginning.

  • Anonymous

    If we won the war why are we importing the victors? Shouldn’t they be treated as heroes and brave leaders back in their home communities?

    “Since the start of the Iraq war, nearly 60,000 Iraqi refugees have settled in the United States, including almost 14,000 in California.”

    Some of the most vocal lobbyists agitating for the U.S. invasion of Iraq were, not surprisingly, the exiled Iraqi elites. High-rollers who had fled to the West when Saddam Hussein first came to power. These activists wanted to have Hussein toppled in order to retake their power seats.

    Basil Al-Rahim and Rend Al-Rahim are siblings related to Salem Chalabi, nephew of Ahmed Chalabi.

    The Iraq Foundation is one of their NGO organization, funded in part by the U.S. State Department, that facilitates the bringing of Iraqi refugees into the States.

  • June

    Why didn’t the military just pay the Iraqis for their services instead of promising them visas? This is as insane as rebuilding countries after we’ve won wars. Is is a false sense of guilt? We feel we must take care of the world and that’s one reason we have the enormous financial deficit we will never reduce. I wonder how Americans are expected to ever get jobs with the numerous people we must compete with? If we’re not welcoming legal immigrants, our government is closing its eyes to illegal aliens. Then, the many visa holders and those who are allowed in for various reasons. They must all have jobs and/or be taken care of by the American taxpayer. We don’t stand a chance. I’m for closing the borders, stopping all immigration for ten years and attrition through enforcement to get our country back on track.

  • Anonymous

    They should settle in Texas where George W. Bush could give them a job.

  • Anonymous

    The settling of Iraqis is just another building block of the global elite’s agenda of creating the ‘United States of the World.’

    Having the diaspora of every race in the U.S. is supposed to grow a pool of talent to project Western-based commercial interests into every corner of the planet.

    It’s an ambitious project to erase national identities and influence, and transform the earth into a global trading bazaar contolled by a wealthy few.

  • whirlwinder

    We do not need more Muslims in country. We need to amend our immigration policy to pre 1965 status. We do not need our country flooded with people from the Middle East or anybody else who can’t be assimilated and who do not want to take part in this exceptional nation.

    Islam is here to colonize and replace our constitution and rule of law with Sharia Law. Their stealth jihad is making progress towards that goal because we Americans refuse to educate ourselves about Islam’s true intent here in America. We need to deal with this problem now before it gets out of hand and the issues cause the loss of lives and property. Turning our the Muslin-in-Chief, his czars, Muslim appointees, other socialists and left wing appointees will go a long way to righting the ship.