News & Resources

The Troops Can Come Home, But the Refugees Can’t

City Limits interviews IRAP translator and journalist Alaa Majeed and IRAP director Becca Heller about the challenges facing Iraqis who helped U.S. forces– the threats they receive in Iraq, the difficulties of resettling in the U.S. amid a massive security check backlog, and, for the lucky few who make it, the adjustment to a new way of life.

Alaa often feels guilty that she is in the United States while her family remains in Iraq. “For the past five years I’ve been here, it’s like I’ve been split between two countries,” she says. “And I feel guilty. I still feel guilty that I’m here, that my people are suffering and that it’s dangerous for them.” She has applied for visas for them to join her but has “little hope that they will ever get refugee status.” They are happy she’s safe now, but Majeed worries because three of them are very ill and not getting the medical help they require. Virtually all applications have been slowed by the increased security background checks for refugees ordered by the Obama Administration. These orders came after two Iraqi refugees in Kentucky were charged with attempting to send weapons back to Iraq for use against Americans earlier this year. As a result, more than 58,000 refugees living in the U.S. were rescreened, and the number of refugees let into America was practically cut in half, from 18,016 in Fiscal Year 2010 to 9,388 in Fiscal Year 2011 according to the U.S. State Department website.

“There are people who have been waiting two years or three years and there’s now an enormous backlog of people waiting to be run through the new checks,” said IRAP director Becca Heller. “So it’s really anyone’s guess when the backlog is going to be cleared.”

Read the full piece here.