“If I had found a job here [in the US], a good job when I came, I would, probably….. I would not go back [to Iraq]”. These are the words of Jack (name changed), an Iraqi interpreter who had worked with the US military in Iraq from May 2004 until September 2007.
Like many Iraqi interpreters, Jack became a target of death threats because of his work with the US military; and did not have an option but to flee Iraq after surviving an assassination attempt. The journey to safety was not a smooth one, though. After waiting for more than two years for a US visa, Jack arrived in the US with hopes of being a contributor to his adopted country. After trying, Jack could not find a job that matches his qualifications. He again had no option and had to go back to the all familiar (yet unwanted) dangerous environment.
Read entire story.
The story seems to be common with US-resettled Iraqis.
We bring this up today with a glimpse of a hopeful beginning. There is, gladly, a realization in Congress that Iraqis resettled in the US are talented individuals; ready to be utilized for the benefit of this nation. To that end, last week, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) sponsored an amendment that calls on the Secretaries of both the Defense and State departments to establish and operate a program that will offer employment for US-resettled Iraqis within the federal agencies. EPIC was one of several organizations that endorsed the amendment and we are pleased to report that the amendment passed. Representative Israel’s amendment is to be applauded and we are proud to have endorsed it. Such amendments are necessary to keep Jack and people with similar backgrounds out of danger. Two of those people have written statements in support of the amendment that are worth-sharing.
A statement from “Harry” who worked with the U.S. Army in Civil Affairs Units and other units in Iraq for four years, and relocated with the help of a humanitarian friend to the US in 2007:
“My family and I have come to this wonderful welcoming community with many supportive and helpful people, but few jobs. We have found it terribly difficult to find work in the United States. I have only managed to find a very part-time job grading papers and giving lectures in Arabic classes, but it only pays $1,500 per semester. We love it here and would like to stay here. My experiences, I think, are valuable. My fellow translators and I have so much to contribute to the United States, working for local, state, or federal agencies within this country. I hope you will pass this bill to help enable us to find viable work and make a great contribution to our new adopted country, which we love. Thank you.”
A Statement from “Andy” who worked with the U.S. Army in several units in Iraq for almost four years, and now lives in the US:
“We are so glad to be in the United States, out of danger. My wife and little daughter love it here. The biggest problem we have is employment for me. I have only been able to find part-time work that pays $10,000 a year, and social services have been very difficult to obtain. We thought that we would be entitled to some governmental assistance, but our American friends here have been having to fight on our behalf to get any services. My abilities in Arabic-English translation and vice versa, and my abilities and eagerness to be a cultural ambassador, would serve the United States well. We could work locally, or at the state or national level to give language and cultural instruction or to be translators and interpreters. I hope that you will make it easier for us to support our families and at the same time contribute as residents of this great country. Thank you for your consideration.”
Given the positive impact the program will make, we urge both the State and Defense departments to quickly establish and start it.
Note: names of interpreters have been changed to protect their identities.