Update: After a week long delay, a ban on refugees coming to the United States has become policy. Starting July 13, no new refugees will be allowed to the country unless they have a “bona-fide” connection. Last week, I learned the story of an Iraqi refugee and his family who are being blocked from coming to the United States, even though they have been cleared and vetted–and even though this man served US military interests in Iraq at great personal risk. Original story below.
Donald Trump’s ban on refugees coming to the United States kicks in after July 6. This means that unless a refugee happens to have a close family member already in the United States, that refugee — who has already been cleared and vetted to arrive and start a new life in America — will no longer find safe haven in the USA.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s executive order baring all refugees from everywhere in the world for 120 days can apply unless that refugee has a sibling, parent or child here. Grandparents and cousins do not qualify as a close enough family tie.
This is why an Iraqi man, his wife and three children will no longer be meeting their cousin in Denver this summer.
The man–who’s identity is being protected — served as an interpreter for a US military contractor in Iraq from 2010 to 2016. Typically, people who serve US military interests in places like Iraq and Afghanistan can apply for a special immigrant visa. But the quota for those visas was reached, so the State Department instead selected him and his family for admission as a refugee to the United States. Consular officers in Baghdad looked closely at his case and deemed that his service to American military interests put his life in danger, so they selected him to come to the United States under a special program designed to help Iraqis flee directly to the United States.
That was in 2014. And thus began over two years of intense security screening and background checks. They passed their final medical clearance and were due to arrive in Denver to meet the man’s cousin in late July.
But now, this family of five is stuck in Iraq–perhaps indefinitely. “It could be years before they are able to come to the United States,” says Jennifer Wilson of the International Rescue Committee’s Denver office.
The IRC is one of nine US-based NGOs that work with the State Department to help resettle refugees. They were working on this case and making preparations for the family’s arrival when the Supreme Court ruling came down. Now, says Wilson, it is unclear when this family can be re-admitted.
That’s because this delay triggers a cascading effect of various clearances expiring. The medical clearance, for example, lasts for 90 days. The refugee ban is for 120 days. Other security clearances will also expire in that time and the process will have to begin anew.
For now, that means a man who served US military interests in Iraq, who along with his wife and children were cleared and vetted for the over two years, will now be indefinitely barred from finding the refuge that he was offered by the United States government that he served.
Meanwhile, the reasons that he was to be admitted as a refugee are still as valid as ever — that he is in danger for working with the US military.