America’s Immigration Gestapo Betrays Iraqi Allies

I love my country and believe it’s a force for good in the world. I’m not one of those cynics who expects America to behave badly. That’s why it hurts so much when it does.

UnknownBush-bashing was, um, a little overdone. But alas, the Bush administration did all too much to, um, disappoint those who supported the Iraq war.

I won’t revisit all the old arguments, but there’s one matter you may not know about, featured recently on National Public Radio’s This American Life. It’s our betrayal of Iraqis who helped us. Pro- and anti-war folks should equally be nauseated.

The hourlong NPR report focused on the efforts of one ex-serviceman, Kirk Johnson (click here for his project’s website), to get the government to honor its moral obligation to Iraqis who, at huge personal risk, worked for us during the war. Now that we’ve left, they’re in even greater danger from jihadists bent on retribution. You would think they’d be perfect candidates for political asylum in the U.S. images-1But America’s Immigration Gestapo (IG)* does not agree.

When it became clear that the IG was stonewalling these supplicants, Johnson and other like-minded Americans carried the issue to Congress. And a law, sponsored by Edward Kennedy, was actually enacted, creating a five year program with 25,000 slots for our former Iraqi employees to gain expedited admission to the U.S.

So did the IG act in accordance with this law? No.

So then Johnson et al made a pitch to the Obama White House to cut the Gordian knot, by simply airlifting all these Iraqis to a military base in, say, Guam, where they could be expeditiously vetted in person for acceptance as refugee immigrants. The proposal wasn’t far-fetched – indeed, Britain, among others, had done something exactly like this with their own former Iraqi helpers. imagesBut when the radio report said this would merely require a stroke of Obama’s pen, my heart sank.

Let’s be clear. Under long-existing law and policy (not to mention basic morality), these people have a right to come here. And it’s a matter of life-or-death.

The NPR report featured the typical case of one Iraqi, Omar, who assiduously struggled to gain admittance while under repeated death threats. His voluminous exchange of e-mails with the IG, over many months, was extensively quoted, and almost literally made me feel like throwing up. In comparison, my recently chronicled run-around from eBay looks like VIP treatment.

The IG would e-mail Omar saying his documentation of contact information for the Americans he worked for was insufficient. Omar would respond with total documentation with every “i” dotted and “t” crossed. The IG would reply saying, in exactly the same words, that his documentation of contact information . . . . Again, and again, and again. Through it all, Omar’s messages exhibited unfailing politeness. The IG kept repeating that his patience would help to accelerate the process (!)

What was going on here? Merely sheer bloody-minded bureaucratic incompetence? Much as I believe in that phenomenon, something more must be involved. Johnson says the answer is simple: Omar, and the thousands like him, are Muslims. But it isn’t discrimination, exactly. Rather, if God forbid one of them came here and committed a big terrorist outrage, no bureaucrat would want his name on the paper trail that let him come.

Unknown-1As if someone who actually risked his life to help Americans in Iraq would be prone to that. I understand cover-your-ass. But this is remove-your-brain.

One sensed that Omar’s story would not end happily. He was beheaded.

* I have written before about the IG’s human rights abuses.

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2 Responses to “America’s Immigration Gestapo Betrays Iraqi Allies”

  1. Lizzy Robinson Says:

    The NYT has a similar story in today’s paper:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/world/middleeast/door-to-us-may-be-closing-for-iraqis-who-helped-the-american-military.html?ref=world

    Also, in one of my classes this semester (actually, the big Middle East one) there is an Iraqi who used to serve in the US army as a translator, and has been fortunate enough to move to the US with his wife and child. I believe he is writing a book about his experience.

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    Thank you. America is a giant, and sometimes a careless, insouciant one. Perhaps that’s inevitable; especially being a democracy. The American people can’t reasonably be expected to keep its eyes on a whole lot of balls in the air, all at the same time. So the Iraqi helper ball drops and nobody notices or much cares. (Well, not nobody. But maybe not enough somebodies.)
    Please convey my respects to your Iraqi classmate.

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