The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program is on my mind this morning. Why? Yesterday, Congress failed to act to ensure that courageous Iraqi men and women who face persecution for standing alongside U.S. troops continue to have a pathway to seek safety and start new lives in the United States.
The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program was created by Congress in 2008 to protect Iraqi nationals whose lives and security are endangered as a result of their employment by and partnership with U.S. missions in Iraq. This program expressed our appreciation and debt of gratitude to Iraqi nationals whose service on the ground is vital to the success of U.S. missions.
Unfortunately, the program was written to expire with the end of the fiscal year on September 30. The original legislation set aside 25,000 visas to be issued to qualified Iraqi nationals over a five-year period. Of that 25,000, only about 8,000 have been issued. In the absence of a law that extends this program, thousands of Iraqi men and women who face extreme danger and persecution on a daily basis are left without a way to seek refuge in the United States.
LIRS has a long tradition of working with Iraqi refugees and Special Immigrant Visa recipients. One of our colleagues, Rana, recently shared her story and experiences as an Iraqi refugee coming to the United States. In her words:
In 1998, my father decided to walk away from our family. My mom was left to take care of my brother and me. But in 2003, when the war started again, her responsibility became even bigger. I remember everything of this war. I was so scared and old enough to know that we could die at any time. In 2005, I survived a kidnapping attempt. I remember there were guns pointed at my head. In 2008, the United States opened the door for refugee applications and it was a chance for me to finally get away from all that was going on in Iraq. So I applied. It was a big decision… When the time came to travel, I was scared and very tired inside from all the traumas that I had been through. I was afraid to be away from my family but I knew that I would be safe in the U.S. – there were no car bombs and no explosions to hear on a daily basis.
The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program should be extended by Congress to allow Iraqi men and women like Rana to seek safety and a new life in the United States. Take action today at the LIRS Action Center to continue this critical program.