The New York Times is reporting that the United States is expanding its visa program for Iraqi allies by 10 times. The expansion is specifically for Iraqi employees of the American government and armed forces, who faced threats because of their service. It expands the qualifications of those who are eligible to obtain visas and ultimately citizenship in the United States. Last year, Senators Kennedy and Smith created a similar plan, but this version is better because of its scale, because resettled persons receive assistance for eight months after being settled in the United States, and because applicants can apply from within Iraq.
According to Amelia Templeton, a refugee analyst at Human Rights First, “The visa programs grew largely because of the combined lobbying efforts of refugee experts, nonprofit organizations, United States government employees who worked in Iraq and American soldiers and marines.”
This is a welcome step towards the current administration addressing the refugee crisis, but the State Department and administration still must do more to meet the needs of the nearly five million displaced Iraqis, not just those who allied with coalition forces in Iraq.