Vets in Congress Back Mattis for Ban Exemptions


By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has requested that President Trump exempt Iraqi nationals, who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime, from the executive order halting immigration from Iraq. Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq.

Mattis has the backing of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, who made a written request in a letter to the president. The letter asks Trump to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order.

The bipartisan letter was signed by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont.

Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans.

“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,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. 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.”

Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa, and has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order.

Moulton warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.

“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”

The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than ten years. Darweesh was ultimately released.

There are special immigrant visas that were expressly created for Iraqis and Afghans who assisted American troops, so that they could relocate to the United States, acknowledging that their work put their lives and the lives of their  families in peril.

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