THE SPECIAL IMMIGRATION VISA PROGRAM AND THE ROLE OF IRAQI TRANSLATORS AND INTERPRETERS
Briggs, Elizabeth Anne
During the United States-led invasion in Iraq in 2003, it became increasingly important to find local translators and interpreters who could assist the U.S. military in its efforts to win the war and then stabilize and rebuild Iraq. The Iraqi interpreters and translators assisted the Americans through their language skills and their knowledge of politics, traditions, history, religion, and tribal rituals. As time wore on and the environment became increasingly more volatile, Iraqi translators and interpreters became targets of Iraqi insurgents, who accused them of being traitors to their country. Iraqi interpreters and translators suffered from death threats, kidnappings, and murder. Since 2006, the United States enacted a number of laws pertaining to the assistance of Iraqi translators and interpreters who worked for the U.S. government and military; however, it took nearly five years for the Special Immigration Visa Program to be completely implemented.The Special Immigration Visa (SIV) was designated for eligible Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters who worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces, at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, or at the U.S. Embassy Kabul. As a result, many of those who risked their lives supporting the American war effort faced years of living dangerously before their SIV status could be finalized. This thesis provides an institutional and historical approach to the problem that has led up to the unique situation for Iraqi interpreters and translators within the last decade. It further examines the moral obligations of the United States to those that served the U.S. while attempting to balance the political upheaval regarding Iraqi refugees entering the United States as potential national security risks.Most of the research that was gathered for this thesis was from printed publications written by journalists or from U.S. military and government officials who expanded on their own experiences working with Iraqi translators or interpreters. Information and publications based on the work by the NGOs 1) “The List Project” 2) IRAP, and 3) No One Left Behind were instrumental in gathering data on the narratives that surround the plight of Iraqi translators and interpreters. There is a substantial dearth of scholarly work that analyzes the SIV programs. Three experts in immigration law provided bureaucratic and inter-agency problems with the SIV programs. Their work was thorough and useful for this thesis in order to provide an overview of the SIV program.
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