Defense Secretary James Mattis is crafting a list of Iraqis who worked with the U.S. military who he believes should be exempt from President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, according to multiple reports.
“Even people that are doing seemingly benign things in support of us — whether as a linguist, a driver, anything else — they often do that at great personal risk,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. “So people who take these risks are really making a tangible signal of support to the United States, and that’s something that will, and should be, recognized."
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order that prohibits foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days. Those countries are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.
The order also bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely and halts all refugee resettlements for four months while officials aim to tighten the vetting process, which is already the strictest in the world.
Iraqis who were granted what’s known as special immigrant visas have been caught in the ban, with some detained at U.S. airports over the weekend. The special immigrant visa program allows Iraqis and Afghans who helped the United States as interpreters and in other roles during the wars in those countries to resettle in America.
The Pentagon list would not require changes to Trump executive order but would act as guidance to the Department of Homeland Security and the White House in implementing the new policy.
Davis would not confirm whether Mattis had requested to write the list or if he was asked to, according to the reports.
“We have been provided an opportunity by the White Hose to submit names, and we are working forward to do that,” Davis said.
It’s unclear how many people Mattis will include on the list and how many of those names Homeland Security or the White House will approve to come to the United States.
“We recognize that people who served this country, we should help them out,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said at a briefing Monday. “But that doesn’t just give them a pass.”
The inclusion in the ban of those who helped U.S. troops intensified the backlash to the order, with veterans, lawmakers and others highlighting the Iraqis' plight in announcing their opposition to the ban.
"America must fulfill her promise to Iraqi and Afghan nationals who served alongside U.S. troops that we promised safe harbor to — not only because it is a moral necessity — but because it sends a message that America keeps its promises to its allies,” John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in a statement Monday. “We strongly urge President Trump to consider the effects that this ban on Iraqi and Afghan interpreters will have on our long-term strategic goals, and to immediately create an exception for foreign nationals who have served alongside our men and women.”