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Lawmakers team with SecDef Mattis to help get Iraqi interpreters visa waivers

Interpreters who have been caught up in the executive order by President Donald Trump suspending immigration from seven countries have picked up some high-powered help from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and some veterans in Congress.


According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Mattis has begun to compile a list of interpreters and other Iraqis who provided assistance to the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sergeant Warren Sparks, squad leader, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is assisted by an interpreter to gather intelligence from a local Afghan during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 1, 2014. (U.S. military photo)

"There are a number of people in Iraq who have worked for us in a partnership role," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Examiner. "They are fighting alongside us or working as translators, often doing so at great peril to themselves, and we are ensuring those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us that those names are known."

The Examiner also reported that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a combat veteran and Marine Corps Reserve officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who currently serves in the Air National Guard and who received six Air Medals for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, have written President Trump in support of Mattis's request for exemptions for the interpreters.

An Afghan man talks with Cpl. William Gill and his interpreter in a village in southern Uruzgan. (DoD Photo by CPL (E-5) Chris Moore Australian Defence Force /Released)

"We are concerned that, with specific application to individuals who worked with the U.S. Government on the ground, certain immigrants deserving prompt consideration are likely to be overlooked," Hunter said in a statement. "We encourage you to make special consideration in the review process for these individuals, who are certain to face threats to their own lives as part of the broader pause in refugee and immigrant admissions."

The Examiner noted that the Special Immigrant Visa program for interpreters and others who have aided the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a flood of applications. As many as 12,000 interpreters and family members re seeking entry into the United States from Afghanistan.