Paying Our Debts, Opening Our Doors
One day, just by doing my job as an interpreter, I was able to save my patrol from an IED that had been hidden in a culvert. We were on our way back to base when a local waved us down and told me about how he had seen some insurgents digging an IED. We called EOD, who brought out dogs, found the bomb, and destroyed it. Compared to most IEDs I had seen, this one was huge, and would have hurt a lot of Marines if we had found it differently. – Former Afghan interpreter “Mohammed FNU” on his proudest moment working with American forces.
Recent executive actions Pres. Obama has taken to allow those in the United States illegally to stay, to get an education, and expedite the process to obtain work visas is laudable. Our southern border will always be a problem as along as the nations south of us are in turmoil. The least we can do is offer safe haven to those who come here looking for a better life, no matter how they get here.
There are always those seeking to come to America. Among the huddled masses yearning to breathe free is a group to whom the United States owes a debt, fulfill a promise made, and in the process remove a threat hanging over their heads. This group consists of Afghan and Iraqi civilians who assisted American ground forces as interpreters during the recent wars. The United States military, recognizing the danger they faced, promised them easy access to the United States if they so chose. The reality, however, became a bureaucratic nightmare once the State Department, seeing another department trespassing on its territory, took over. This nightmare is nowhere better personified than the plight of “Mohammed FNU”, an interpreter for the United States Marine Corps, whose journey to a Visa took four years, begun after his father was tortured and killed by the Taliban. In the process, this individual who risked his life for our Marines, who saved lives because he knew the language, had the indignity of losing his name.
Most people don’t realize the volume of paperwork required to come to America. How many different forms do you think you filled out along the way?
Let’s see. There was the I-360, the verification of employment letter, a letter from my supervisor, a statement of threat, DS-157, a copy of my employee badge, passport, and taskera, form DS-260, a police security check, a DS-0234, the Refugee Benefits Election Form, to name a few.
Along the way, you lost your first name. How is it possible to lose someone’s name? How do you get it back?
No idea. We checked every single form we submitted to them, and my first and last name were listed there, clear as day. We called USCIS to inform them about this error, and they said it wasn’t their fault, and that we could file form I-90, get a judge’s order, and pay the fee ($450) to fix it. We’ve put off dealing with this additional administrative SNAFU until we get my family to safety, although we did find it funny that one of the supposed reasons this process took so long was because they were vetting me, and then they couldn’t even get my name right.
His family, including his three-year-old brother, kidnapped for a $35,000 ransom by the Taliban, are still there, in even greater danger now that he is here. He is working hard to get his family with him. Yet, no amount of work, no amount of screaming, and it seems no amount of publicity can make the wheels of the American foreign service bureaucracy move faster. As long as we have quotas on immigrants; as long as we treat these young men and women who did so much for us during our wars no differently than any other person trying to enter the United States; as long as we aren’t even willing to do what it takes to ensure people keep their names; nothing is going to change.
Contacting Congress might help. Contacting the State Department surely won’t do much good. Spreading the word, making people aware how we are treating those to whom we owe a debt, a promise we need to fulfill as quickly as possible, can help. We are better than this, or at least we should be. Weighed down by everything from mountains of paperwork to national quotas (set by Congress, to be lifted, changed, or eliminated by Congress), interpreters who face harassment, torture, and death for themselves and their families continue to wait for America to follow through; in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., to cash the check that is come due. This is more than a simple political obligation, although it is certainly that. It is a moral obligation, one our bureaucracies are ill-equipped to handle. Concerted efforts by as many people as possible to help those we promised to help may yet save lives, remove fear, and offer a better life for those who have already risked so much for us.