Bipartisan group urges Trump to approve Mattis's requested exemptions for Iraqis

Bipartisan group urges Trump to approve Mattis's requested exemptions for Iraqis
© Getty Images

A group of bipartisan lawmakers, including one of President Trump’s earliest backers on Capitol Hall, on Trump Monday to exempt Iraqi translators and other U.S. military aides from his immigration ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump on Monday. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger.”

The letter was led by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who was one of the first lawmakers to endorse Trump, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who remained critical of Trump throughout the campaign. Both are Iraq War veterans.

ADVERTISEMENT

It was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerAhead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans Trump threatens to double down on Portland in other major cities Federal agents deployed to Portland did not have training in riot control: NYT MORE (D-Ore.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (D-Vt.). Stivers and Moulton are also Iraq War veterans.

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order that prohibits citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 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 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 other roles during the wars in those countries to resettle in America.

The inclusion in the ban of Iraqis who had helped U.S. troops intensified the backlash to the order, with veterans, lawmakers and others highlighting that aspect of the order in announcing their opposition to the ban.

ADVERTISEMENT

Defense Secretary James Mattis is compiling a list of Iraqis he wishes to exempt from the ban, though it’s unclear how many names the Department of Homeland Security or the White House will approve.

The letter from the lawmakers throw their support behind Mattis’s list, saying it’s imperative to keep the United States’ promise to those who put their lives at risk to help U.S. troops.

“These allies risked their own lives, as well as the well-being of their families, to advance America’s security interests in a region where their skillsets and willingness to confront extremism have been invaluable to mission success,” they wrote.

Hunter and Kinzinger also released a joint statement urging Trump to honor Mattis’s requests. 

“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” they said. “For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”