About Us
Mission Statement
Rules of Conduct
Remember Me

Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 01/31/2017 12:54:49

Good Morning.

We're another week deeper into Cloud-Cuckoo Land.

Mr. Trump keeps swinging his sledgehammer, and more and more things that used to happen in the United States are falling by the wayside.

We'll go directly to Iraq this morning, and take a look at what kind of impact the latest impeachable offence has had.

As it was reported in this space about two weeks ago, we've been in Iraq for a whopping 26 years. Our presence has ebbed and flowed, but we've always been dependent to some extent on the native population to assist us.

After we left, we recognized that those that helped us might actually be in danger, so we set up a couple of programs to make their pathway to immigration a little bit easier. It's been a dream of many Iraqis to get out and make a better life for their families.

Trump has just torpedoed those hopes.

Iraqis who say their lives are in danger because they worked with the U.S. government in Iraq fear their chances of finding refuge in the United States may vanish under a new order signed on Friday by President Donald Trump.

The order temporarily suspends the United States' main refugee program and halts visas being issued to citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq. It is expected to affect two programs U.S. lawmakers created a few years after the 2003 invasion of Iraq to help the tens of thousands of Iraqis who risked their lives helping Americans.

Trump says the order is necessary to prevent Islamist militants from coming to the United States posing as refugees, but refugee advocacy groups say the lengthy screening of applicants by multiple U.S. agencies makes this fear unfounded.

Iraqis coming to the United States under the Special Immigrant Visa program for Iraqis, which stopped accepting new applications in 2014, or the ongoing Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis are losing hope of ever getting out.

"Mr. Trump, the new president, killed our dreams," said one Baghdad man whose wife worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a bookkeeper.

"I don't have any hope to go to the United States," he said in a telephone interview, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by Iraq's Sunni and Shia militant groups and also of unfavorable treatment by the Trump administration.

More than 7,000 Iraqis, many of them interpreters for the U.S. military, have resettled in the United States under the Special Immigrant Visa program since 2008, while another 500 or so are still being processed, according to State Department figures. Another 58,000 Iraqis were awaiting interviews under the Direct Access program, according to the International Refugee Assistance Project. Tens of thousands have already arrived under the second program, but no recent total was available.

"A lot of translators were trying to get the hell out of there because they had a mark on their head for working with U.S. forces," Allen Vaught, a former U.S. Army captain who went to Fallujah in western Iraq in 2003, said in a telephone interview.

"They're viewed as collaborators."

But it's not just our old allies that are affected. Here in this Commonwealth, there's already been news about college professors headed for Umass/Amherst, a number of doctors that were coming to study at Mass General, and some scientists bound for M.I.T. that all had to shelter in place while enroute. None of these folks strike me as terrorists, and I bet that at least the doctors headed here were probably hoping to do some good for their societies back home based on the things they learned here. Guess that won't be happening now. Actions do have consequences, and real people are being affected by Mr. Trump's xenophobia.

After two years planning, the Suleiman family were turned back to Iraq when they tried to board a flight from Cairo to New York.

"I have prepared for this journey and this immigration for two years," said Fouad Suleiman, a father of three who previously worked as a translator for USAID. "I sold my house, I sold my properties. The most annoying thing that I feel guilty about ... my kids left their school. So one whole year will be, I don't know what to say.''

That job allowed the 52-year-old Suleiman to apply to emigrate to the U.S. via a program known as the Special Immigrant Visa. It was created by U.S. lawmakers to help the thousands of Iraqis who risked their lives helping Americans after the 2003 invasion.

He applied for U.S. visas for himself, his wife, 10-year-old and 17-year-old daughters and a 19-year-old son in September 2014. The paperwork came through on Dec. 6, 2016.

"My home is in America. I'm paying rent for my apartment in New York, but I can't go there right now," said Saira Rafiei, a 32-year-old Iranian who is now stuck in Tehran.

Rafiei has been enjoying what she called the "rigorous atmosphere of American academia" since 2010.

She was initially a student at New York University and she is now doing her Ph.D. in political science at The City University of New York.

Rafiei has an F1 student visa that is valid for multiple entries in and out of the United States for another two years.

She had been in Tehran and was scheduled to fly back to New York via Abu Dhabi on Saturday when she and a group of other Iranian students were blocked from boarding the plane.

Rafiei was told to sign a document or else her visa would be revoked. She described the experience as "humiliating" and said she felt like she was treated like a criminal — despite the fact that she and many of the other Iranian passengers had valid visas and green cards.

"You somehow have this feeling that you can't trust the U.S. government because the U.S. government doesn't even respect its own policies," Rafiei said. "As I said, some of these people had green cards and they thought that they could go there without any problems."

Razan Alghandour, a 26-year-old Syrian, and her two daughters were anxiously awaiting a long-awaited reunion with her husband and the girls' father in the States on Saturday when it was thwarted because of what she was told was "the new executive order."

Alghandour and her girls, Hanan Kassar, 8, and Layan Kassar, 5, had received visas at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan on Jan. 23, 2017.

They had flown from Amman to Kiev, Ukraine where they were to connect with a flight to New York. But when they tried to board the plane on Saturday, they were turned away and sent back to Amman.

Now her husband, Fadi Kassar, is sitting in Milford, CT. devastated that his wife and children have not been able to join him. He wept as he spoke to NBC News in Connecticut on Saturday.

"It's the reaction of every father. Every father wants to see his kids," Kassar said through a translator.

"Now they are back in Jordan. They don't have luggage. They don't have clothes to wear. They don't have anything," Kassar said.

Most of the folks affected are just like our grandparents and great-grandparents; the United States used to represent the land of opportunity, and they all hoped to come here to make a better life. My own great-grandmother's name is on a brick somewhere on Ellis Island.

But now we simply turn everyone away.

55 comments (Latest Comment: 01/31/2017 21:46:28 by TriSec)
   Perma Link

Share This!

Furl it!