So far this year, the United States has admitted just 70 Iraqi refugees, and most of those had fled long before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to U.S. officials and refugee groups.
Under sustained criticism for not doing more to help with the refugee crisis, the Bush administration has said it will open the door a little wider. But even that will do little for the estimated 93,000 Iraqis who now work for U.S. government entities.
State Department and Homeland Security officials say they expect to review the applications of as many as 7,000 Iraq refugees in fiscal year 2007, which ends Oct. 1. Hundreds have been interviewed, and the first group of 60 is expected to arrive in the United States later this month.
The program has been delayed by disagreements between State and the Department of Homeland Security, which didn't put new screening procedures into place until late May, and immigration experts doubt that the administration will meet its targets.
"It's not going to happen," said Megan Fowler of Refugees International. "The State Department is continually putting out unrealistic numbers."
This month, President Bush signed legislation expanding the number of Afghan and Iraqi translators allowed into the U.S. from 50 to 500 through 2008, giving them special immigrant status.
Translators! How many translators can we possibly have working for us? And those are the only people we're going to let in? This is a shame, and a disgrace. Obviously we don't want to let any insurgents or members of Al Qaeda disguised as refugees slip into the country, but security concerns do not justify keeping the vast majority of Iraqis employed by us out of the country if they desire to leave. They have served our cause in their homeland, often at great risk to themselves, and they should be permitted to come to the U.S. relatively hassle-free if they so desire. We owe at least that to them, which is really nothing compared with what we've done to their country that's caused them to want to leave in the first place. It's long past time to put some sort of reasonably effective screening process together and let these people come here.