Interpreter who Helped Illinois Soldiers Still Waiting to Enter US

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2019-10-08 20:04:17

A man in Iraq who assisted US soldiers during the Iraq War said he is still waiting for the opportunity to give his family a better life in Illinois.

“Jaguar” served as an interpreter for American forces in Iraq. He and other Iraqi citizens who worked for the US continue to face threats in their country for their association with Americans during the 2003-2011 war.

NBC 5 Investigates first spoke to Jaguar in 2016 and learned that he was waiting for approval from the US to enter the country. He had previously received recommendations from military officers and supervisors to support his application. But three years after our first conversation with Jaguar, he said he has yet to receive any significant updates from the government.

“No one talks to me personally and no one follows my case,” Jaguar said.

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Jaguar said he moves several times a year to keep his family safe.

“I’m not secured. I’m not safe. I’m not good. My health is going worse,” Jaguar said.

Jaguar originally applied to enter the country through the United States Refugee Resettlement Program for Iraqis in Jordan, Egypt and Iraq with US Affiliations.

Illinois National Guard veteran John Taylor served alongside Jaguar during the Iraq War and for years has tried to help his friend.

“We’ve tried humanitarian parole. We’ve tried all sorts of stuff and right now there’s really no way to get him and many other people who are in a similar situation out of Iraq,” Taylor said.

The US cancelled its Special Immigrant Visa Program for Iraq in 2014. Many who applied before the program’s cut-off continue to wait for updates on their applications.

NBC News recently reported the Trump administration issued only two visas to Iraqi interpreters last year.

“I think it’s going to take a change in legislation for this to really be resolved,” Taylor said.

Majid Jabber translated for American soldiers during the Iraq war and moved to Illinois in 2007 on a Special Immigrant Visa.

“This is the land of opportunity and fairness and freedom and to see that all shut down because political issues or whatever that is, it breaks my heart,” Jabber said.

Meanwhile, Taylor said he is about to embark on a speaking tour to raise awareness for Jaguar and others from Iraq and Afghanistan who are seeking a life in the United States.

“Most people don’t know that these interpreters exist,” Taylor said. “They don’t know the sacrifices that they’ve made.”

Jaguar told NBC 5 Investigates he remains optimistic.

“Believing John and believing all the good people to give me a chance to get my family safe,” Jaguar said. 

A US State Department spokesperson told NBC 5 Investigates that the department is committed to supporting those who have helped US military and other government personnel perform their duties.

“Everyone involved in this process, whether in Washington or at our embassies abroad, is fully aware of how much we owe our Afghan and Iraqi colleagues and the risks they face,” the spokesperson said.

The White House recently announced it is cutting the number of refugees it plans to allow into the country next year to 18,000 people. Still, the Defense Department is allowed to select several thousand refugees and in the past it has expressed support for the Iraqi workers who helped American troops.

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