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US to "Vastly Expand" Acceptance of Iraqis
If "Vast" Means 500 of the Thousands of Refugees Who've Worked for US
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 03/26/2007 6:49 PM ET
The United States is "working to identify the best way" to address the thorny problem of assisting Iraqis who are under threat inside the country or stateless refugee abroad because they have worked with Americans during the war, but that didn't seem good enough for Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) during his House Foreign Affairs committee hearing Iraqi Volunteers, Iraqi Refugees: What Is America's Obligation?.

Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for poulation, refugees, and migration, said during her opening statement in front of the committee:

"We also recognize the dangers that certain individuals in Iraq might face due to their association with the United States.... Existing legislation created a program that allows Special Immigrant Visas for up to 50 Department of Defense translators per year. The Administration is currently working to identify the best way to broaden our existing authorities to address such situations involving local staff."

While questioning Sauerbrey, Ackerman, chairman of the subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, asked about solving the problem by expanding the number of allowed Special Immigrant Visas.

Sauerbrey said that discussions were underway, and plans had already been laid to do just that.

Ackerman pressed Sauerbrey to give an idea of how significantly the proposal under discussion would expand the acceptance of Iraqis, to which Sauerbrey responded that the US intends to "vastly increase" the issuance of Specialist Immigrant Visas.

When pressed further, Saurbrey defined the proposed "vast" increase as being in the realm of 500 per year.

The Chairman couldn't restrain a muffled grumble about that not sounding very vast before moving on to his next topic.

Considering that tens of thousands of Iraqis have worked for Coalition forces, the State Department, or the numerous corporations who operated under US contracts, and that millions of Iraqis are either internally displaced or refugees in a foreign country, increasing Specialist Immigrant Visas to 500 sounds like the moral and intellectual equivalent of proposing a "surge" of only a few dozen troops.

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