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Q: We’ve had Iraqi interpreters working with our units and on our bases for years. They risk their lives and could be killed just for working for Americans. But I hear they’re not allowed to seek asylum in the U.S. ... What’s up with that?

A: While there is no official proscription against getting Iraqis working for U.S. forces into America, it’s often been a long, dangerous process. Many of the interpreters who have sought asylum or a travel visa to the U.S. have had to travel to Jordan or another neighboring country, where they are sometimes arrested or denied permission to leave the airport; or worse, taken in for bribes by unscrupulous local officials.

That aside, it looks as if there is some relief for Iraqis working for U.S. troops in Iraq (the Pentagon has unofficially estimated that number to be around 60,000 people). In late September, the Senate adopted an amendment to a defense bill that would raise the number of Iraqi interpreters and contract employees allowed into the U.S. on special immigrant status from 500 to 5,000 each year, for the next five years.

There also will be a special immigration category for Iraqis who might otherwise be persecuted in their home country for having worked with the Americans. In addition, the applications now can be reviewed at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

According to the U.N., more than 2 million Iraqis have fled their country since the war began. Over the past year, the United States accepted only 1,600 Iraqi refugees.

Got a question about goings-on in the Mideast? E-mail Stripes at: news@estripes.sd.mil

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