FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
WASHINGTON — Lawyers from the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) at the Urban Justice Center have filed the first-ever suit to hold the U.S. Government accountable for a backlog of applications from Iraqis seeking Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to gain refuge in the United States.
The suit was filed on Monday, July 14 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of “Ali,” an Iraqi who served as a translator for U.S. Armed Forces from December 2004-January 2009.
“I assisted the U.S. army to build a new Iraq, free of dictatorship and fear for my children,” says Ali. “Instead, my cooperation with the U.S. has forced my family into fear and hiding every day as violence escalates, and my family is trapped here with no information from the U.S. I feel betrayed that I helped the U.S. in their time of need, and they do not respond to me when I need them.”
There are tens of thousands of Iraqis who, like the plaintiff, advanced the U.S. mission in Iraq in various ways: by working as interpreters for the military, as journalists, as humanitarian workers who received U.S. funding to do their work.
The recent sectarian violence in Iraq has not only increased the danger these U.S. allies face, but has halted the U.S. Government’s refugee processing further trapping those who need to flee. Failure on the part of the U.S. Government to keep its promises to these allies could threaten our own national security by eroding our credibility in the region and our ability to recruit local nationals in future conflict zones.
“For Ali and others like him, this is a life or death situation where every minute counts,” says Becca Heller, Director, IRAP. “Congress recognized this when they passed a law requiring these visas to be processed within nine months. But Ali has been waiting over two years, and it’s time to bring in a judge and end this nightmare.”
“It should not require multiple Congressional inquiries and a lawsuit to move a case forward. There are too many lives on the line,” adds Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “That’s why we need Congress to immediately authorize another 1,000 SIVs to meet the dire shortfall we are facing, and work to craft a long-term solution that honors America’s commitments. We need to keep our promise and protect those who protected our troops.”
Interviews and redacted copy of lawsuit available upon request.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) organizes law students and attorneys to provide legal representation for refugees and their families who cannot otherwise afford it. IRAP is comprised of over 1,000 law students and 50 of the country’s top law firms working to help refugees from Iraq and other countries, with a particular focus on helping those who are under threat because they helped advance U.S. military missions.