VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Special visa program extended for Iraqis who helped the U.S. military
October 4, 2013 by The IRC
|A Baghdad neighborhood shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein. Photo: Gerald Martone/IRC|
The United States Congress created the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program in 2008 to protect Iraqis who face persecution as a result of their employment with the U.S. mission in Iraq. The program was set to expire on September 30 and, fortunately, the House and Senate voted unanimously this week to extend it. Without this extension, thousands of Iraqis who supported the U.S. military and civilian administrators would be at risk. It’s an important lifeline for these courageous men and women who put their lives in peril to protect American troops—and now face ongoing threats due to their work with the U.S. government.
Yousif*, an Iraqi translator who now works with the International Rescue Committee’s refugee resettlement office in Phoenix, Arizona, followed developments in Congress closely as the expiration deadline approached. He shares his story:
My name is Yousif and I grew up in Baghdad, Iraq. Violence in Iraq was terrible even before I started working with the U.S. government in 2007. My college was closed for several months at a time because of car bombings. During the months when my school was closed, I continued studying from home. School was eventually reopened and I was able to graduate within four years.
After graduating from college, I began translating documents and technical manuals for the U.S. Army in Iraq. I continued to work as a translator until 2012. Then, I worked as an IT specialist for a company that contracted with the U.S. government. I was grateful to have the opportunity to utilize what I had learned in college for my work. I had to travel to different parts of the country for my job and it was incredibly dangerous: Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government were a target. For me personally, I received threats and I feared for my safety and that of my family.
Congress created the Special Immigrant Visa program in 2008 to help protect Iraqis who put their lives on the line to support and work for the U.S. government or its contractors. Iraq is not a safe place for anyone, and especially dangerous for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government. I decided to apply for the Special Immigrant Visa Program in 2010. I arrived in the U.S. in March 2012 and my family joined me in April 2013. I see a bright future for my kids -- I would love to see them do well and succeed in school.
I will never go back to Iraq because I came here to escape the violence. I left behind many friends in Baghdad who also risked their lives to work for the U.S. government. I hope the Special Immigrant Visa program will continue to help many Iraqis like myself rebuild their lives in the U.S.
*Name has been changed to protect the family’s privacy
Our volunteers play an integral role in the International Rescue Committee's efforts to restore safety, dignity, and hope to people whose lives have been uprooted by war and disaster.
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