Today, The Wall Street Journal broke the news of IRAP’s landmark lawsuit against the US Government, on behalf of nine Iraqis whose lives are currently at risk and in limbo because the United States has failed to make a decision on their Special Immigrant Visa applications. The lawsuit was served yesterday in Washington, DC.
“The lawsuit, filed by [IRAP] and the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP, asks a Washington, DC, federal court to order ‘prompt administrative action’ on the visa requests of the nine plaintiffs, whose real names aren’t in the suit due to security reasons,” writes Miriam Jordan for the Journal. “The plaintiffs have been waiting on average four years, three months, since submitting their applications to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the lawsuit says.”
The Special Immigrant Visa program was originally established in 2008 to protect Iraqis who served the U.S. mission in their home country, and whose lives are threatened as a result. “Thousands of individuals who served the U.S. mission in Iraq, and their relatives, have been kidnapped, tortured, placed on death lists and forced into hiding,” explains the Journal. In practice, the program has failed to result in adequate protection. Although Congress mandated in 2013 that the US Government complete all vetting within nine months of an application’s submission, the responsible agencies have fallen far short of this goal.
The Wall Street Journal piece offers a window into the individual experience of a number of the individuals represented in the lawsuit.
“The suit states that all plaintiffs remain in limbo since receiving approval from the chief of mission in the US embassy in Baghdad, the first step in the process, and then completing a visa application.
“Plaintiff ‘Foxtrot’ was employed by companies in Iraq that delivered supplies. In a phone interview, he described his abduction and torture by militiamen who accused him of being a spy for the US. An American military medical report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal shows areas on his body where he sustained injuries.
“He was transferred to Basra, where he did logistics work.
“‘He put his life in danger by working for us,’ said Foxtrot’s American supervisor, Brent Ryther, who provided a letter in support of Foxtrot’s visa application. That was approved in March 2011 but has been in ‘administrative processing.’
“Plaintiff ‘Charlie,’ cited by Col. Welch for his work in Baghdad, became a target of car bombs, and US military personnel intercepted a phone call about a plan to kidnap his son, according to the lawsuit.
“The chief of mission approved his application in August 2011. Since passing an interview and medical exam in 2012, Charlie has been in administrative processing.
“‘My life has stopped for years,’ he said in an interview from Turkey. ‘They don’t refuse me and don’t approve me.’”
You can read the full Wall Street Journal article here.