TOKYO — As military and local leaders on Guam prepare for the planned arrival of 8,000 U.S. Marines, another group of people could be headed their way from Iraq, according to a report from a Washington think tank.

The report, "Operation Safe Haven Iraq 2009," calls on President-elect Barack Obama to speed the immigration process for Iraqis who work for the U.S. military as translators or contractors.

Guam, which has a history of playing host to wartime refugees, is listed as a possible staging area for the immigrants as they await the final stages of approval.

"We believe that the current programs continue to take too long," said Natalie Ondiak, who along with Brian Katulis wrote the report. She added that many lives remain at risk.

The report says that an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 Iraqis who are working with or have worked with U.S. forces face threats because of their jobs during the war.

That threat could increase if U.S. troop levels decrease under a proposal from the Obama administration, according to Ondiak, who wrote the report for the Center for American Progress. The center is a think tank set up by John D. Podesta, a chief of staff under President Bill Clinton and a co-chair of Obama’s transition team.

"As the troops draw down, this will become a question at the forefront of many policymakers’ minds," Ondiak said in a phone interview from Washington. "This could start now, in a couple of months. We want to get [the report] out there to provoke the discussion as this is happening."

A law passed last year provides these Iraqi workers with a special immigrant visa, a tool meant to allow for the quick processing of up to 5,000 applications for the Iraqi workers and their families each year, according to Ondiak.

So far, however, that approval process has been slow. Last year, 500 visas were approved under the process. About 100 applications are processed each month, she said.

In their report, Ondiak and Katulis suggest the United States speed the process by airlifting applicants who pass the background check out of Iraq to await final approval. Suggested sites include Guam and a military base in Kuwait.

"Currently, there are no plans to house or receive Iraqi refugees here at Andersen AFB, Guam," Dowdell said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. "However, it is important to note that operations have changed significantly since the 1990s when Operation Pacific Haven was conducted here."

Ondiak said the report did not delve into specifics about the island’s capabilities for housing the refugees for the estimated three to four months needed to complete the immigration process.

Guam is home to about 14,000 servicemembers, Department of Defense workers and military family members. That number is expected to grow to an estimated 40,000 as the Pentagon moves 8,000 U.S. Marines, dependents and Defense Department civilians to Guam from Okinawa by 2014.

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