Iraqis who serve as interpreters for the U.S. military are in a dangerous position: they often face retaliation, via threats, abductions and attacks, due to their association with America’s armed forces.
But the Trump administration has become stingy with U.S. visas for interpreters, granting just two in the last year, according to an NBC News report on government data.
Hundreds of those assisting the U.S. military with language barriers in Iraq have been killed since 2003 — and for some former interpreters, the threats do not end when they leave the country.
Former interpreter Shaker Jeffrey, who has been waiting ten years for a visa, told NBC that Islamic State militants continued to target him even after he fled to Germany.
"I am a hunted man," he said. "If I return to Iraq, I will be assassinated."
The number of former Iraqi interpreters receiving visas to enter the U.S. has dwindled over the past few years, with 325 gaining admittance in fiscal 2016, 196 in 2017, and only two in fiscal year 2018.
This amounts to a more than 99 percent decline is admittance rates for former interpreters, NBC noted.
Though the answer as to why so few visas are being granted is unknown, the Trump administration’s overall stance on immigration is crystal clear. Refugee advocates and lawmakers believe President Donald Trump’s desire to crackdown on refugees and immigrants is likely to blame.
Those trying to come to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries — including Iraq — are now subjected to "enhanced security vetting,” and Trump has dramatically reduced the number of refugees that can be admitted to the country, dropping the cap to 30,000 this year.
And according to a Politico report, Trump would like to make further reductions in the number of refugees permitted, “with some officials proposing a goal of zero admissions.”
These moves have hurt Iraqi interpreters’ chances of making the cut, according to humanitarian organizations.
"It's a scandalous situation and the Trump administration has given no good reason for it," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md told NBC. "Who will want to work with us in the future if we don't keep our promises?"