The New York Times published an op-ed today by the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project at Yale Law School on the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqis, which was created by Congress in 2007 to provide routes of escape for Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. government, military, or contractors and faced danger as a result of their U.S. affiliation. It recommends that the government make some common-sense improvements to the application process – a cumbersome multi-agency process that can take a year or more to complete, according to Human Rights First’s research. Indeed, only 2,347 SIVs had been issued to Iraqis as of June 30 – out of 15,000 that are available.
Human Rights First first reviewed the Iraqi SIV program in a 2009 report, “Promises to the Persecuted: The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act.” We’ll issue an update this fall. We continue to urge the U.S. government to make important changes to the SIV and resettlement processes that Iraqis and other refugees so desperately need, including:
-Improvements to staffing, coordination, and timeliness of the essential security check process so legitimate refugees are not stranded in danger or destitution; and
-Development of a formal and transparent process to expedite the resettlement of legitimate refugees who face imminent danger.
Tonight, President Obama will announce from the Oval Office that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq has ended. Yet the U.S. diplomatic and humanitarian missions must continue. We hope to hear the President affirm the United States’ obligation to lead the way in finding solutions for Iraqis displaced by the war. It’s not only the morally responsible thing to do, given the U.S. role in the war, but it’s also strategically smart, and will support long-term stability in the region.