Tags: Immigration | Iraq | ISIS/Islamic State | Iraqi | refugees | helpers | U.S.

Iraqis Sue US Government Over Visa Delays

By    |   Tuesday, 10 Mar 2015 06:25 PM

Several Iraqis are suing the United States Departments of State and Homeland Security over problems and delays with U.S. visas they are trying to secure.

The group claims the delays in gaining visas have put them in danger, especially with the Islamic State (ISIS) taking over cities in Iraq, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) claims thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis, and their relatives have been kidnapped, tortured, put on death lists, and have been forced into hiding because they were known to have helped the Americans during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Journal reports that Congress started the Special Immigrant Visa program, designed to help foreigners on the U.S. payroll whose safety is in jeopardy. More than 6,000 Iraqis and members of their immediate families have received U.S. visas since the program started in 2008, according to the Journal, but another 2,000 applicants are facing longer wait times as their cases are reviewed.

The lawsuit, which was served on Monday, has nine plaintiffs who have been waiting, on average, four years and three months to receive their American visas after presenting their paperwork at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Iraq War veteran Col. Steve Miska, now a professor at the Marine Corps University, told the Journal visa applications from war zones, particularly the middle East, must be given extra scrutiny.

"No government agency wants to be put on the blame line for allowing a terrorist into the country," Miska said.

A State Department official told the Journal — before the lawsuit was filed — visa applications are typically decided on within 30 days of a visa interview. All nine plaintiffs in the case have had visa interviews, although it wasn't clear when those took place.

The official added, however, that each application must be vetted for security reasons.

In 2013 when the backlog of visas was growing larger, Congress ordered that all visa applications be completed — whether the final answer would be to issue one or not — within nine months of receiving the application. IRAP's national policy director Katherine Reisner, however, told the Journal the government "has not made it a priority" to follow through with that Congressional mandate.

The Journal talked to two of the nine plaintiffs in the suit, both of whom have been targeted by insurgents for their roles in helping the Americans.

"My life has stopped for years," one plaintiff told the Journal. "They don't refuse me and don't approve me."

In December, a report said Congress was poised to grant visas to 4,000 Afghanis  who worked as interpreters for the U.S. military.

One of the government's fears in the post-9/11 world is granting a visa to a potential terrorist. Last fall, a report claimed the Obama administration has lost track of 6,000 foreigners who came to the U.S. via student visas.

That report said 58,000 foreigners overstayed their student visas from 2013-2014.

"They just disappear," former Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn said last fall. "They get the visas and they disappear."

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, 26 student visa holders have been arrested in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges.

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Several Iraqis are suing the United States Departments of State and Homeland Security over problems and delays with U.S. visas they are trying to secure. The group claims the delays in gaining visas have put them in danger, especially with the Islamic State (ISIS) taking...
Iraqi, refugees, helpers, U.S., sue, visa, delay, fear, ISIS
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2015-25-10
Tuesday, 10 Mar 2015 06:25 PM
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