What Trump’s Refugee Cut Means for Iraqis who Helped the U.S.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Yousif al-Jabouri (a pseudonym for a case worker at the International Refugee Assistance Project) shared his story about how the Trump Administration’s travel ban is affecting his family, despite his service as an interpreter alongside the U.S. Army in Iraq.

“I began working for the U.S. because I believed in the honest efforts of the American soldiers to create a better Iraq, with freedom and democracy,” writes Yousif. “I was exposed to the same danger as the American soldiers, except that I was unarmed and vulnerable to attacks on my days off, when I was not under the unit’s protection.”

Under threat from hostile militias, Yousif and his family applied for and were granted Special Immigrant Visas. This program enables Iraqis who helped the American military to find safety in the United States.

Sadly, Yousif’s mother, brothers, and sister remain in danger. “Shiite militias and the Islamic State are still influential and looking to make an example out of those who worked with the Americans,” he says. Their only path to safety is through the Refugee Admissions Program for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis. The Direct Access Program allows Iraqis with U.S. connections to be resettled as refugees in the United States. With a current backlog of approximately 60,000 applicants, the process is long and arduous.

Last month, however, this option moved further out of reach when President Trump set a historically low refugee admissions goal of 45,000 for Fiscal Year 2018. This decision will slow down the process for all refugees, including Yousif’s family.

Ultimately, it is up to the president to decide if he will have a change of heart, and change his policy to increase refugee admissions amid a global refugee crisis. Meanwhile, refugees like Yousif’s family live in constant fear.

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Published on October 13, 2017

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