Veterans worry refugee order will hurt those who helped US troops

Some veterans and refugee advocates are worried that an executive order by President Trump to temporarily suspend refugee admissions into the U.S. will hurt foreign interpreters who helped American troops in war.  

“With today’s Executive Order, the President has shut the door on thousands of foreign interpreters, our wartime allies, who served alongside our military since 2001,” said Matt Zeller, Army veteran, and CEO and co-founder of No One Left Behind.

Zeller, who served in Afghanistan, fought to get his Afghanistan War translator, Janis, to the U.S., despite an enormous existing backlog of applications. 

“As you know, without Janis, my Afghan translator, I would not be speaking to you today. I would have been killed by two Taliban fighters in the hills of Afghanistan and not fighting for interpreters’ rights today,” Zeller said.

{mosads}Trump signed an order on Friday that would temporarily suspend most refugees from entering, including those through a program that Afghanistan and Iraq War translators have used to apply for admissions to the U.S., in exchange for their service to U.S. troops. 

Zeller argues that the four-month ban could leave interpreters to “languish and fend for themselves against the very enemies we asked them to help us fight.” 

The order would also permanently suspend all immigration from countries that don’t comply with future information requirements. 

“An indefinite ban on Iraqi refugees leaves countless thousands to be hunted for their service to the United States. We now fail to keep our country’s promise to these Iraqi allies who’ve waited patiently for years for their visas,” Zeller said. 

Zeller also voiced worry about the damage the temporary ban would have on U.S. credibility in countries whose nationals signed up to help U.S. troops in hopes of admission into the U.S., and the effect it would have on future American troops serving. 

“Our credibility will be forever neutered if not eroded. Why would any potential ally ever trust America to keep its word again? It pains me to think how many US soldiers will now die in future wars because we couldn’t recruit the local support that is often the difference between life and death,” he said. 

Zeller also voiced concern about the emotional toll it would take on troops who may feel as if they are abandoning their allies.  

“This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. Vietnam Veterans speak often of their half-century injury at having abandoned so many of our Vietnamese allies. Today, the President has cast the same injury onto the newest generation of American veterans,” he said.

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