Why is the security clearance process for Iraqi refugees taking so long?
Some background about this question:
- Until a few months ago, the average processing time for a refugee application was approximately 8-10 months from the time of referral from UNHCR.
- The process for Iraqis in Jordan was approximately seven months and considerably longer for Iraqis in Iraq.
- However, since February 2011 when changes were made in the U.S. security check system, the process is taking longer for all refugees.
- Also, after May 2011, ADDITIONAL SECURITY CHECKS WERE ADDED FOR IRAQIS, after two Iraqi refugees in Kentucky were charged with providing arms and money to Al Qaeda in Iraq. The men are in jail awaiting trial.1
- There was a virtual hold on visas for all Iraqis. In addition, some refugees who had already been accepted for resettlement have had their offers rescinded (taken back) as a result of the new security checks.
- As of Jul7 2011, at least 62,000 Iraqis (29,000 who worked for American troops and diplomats, and their family members) had applications pending to enter the U.S. ((New York Times Editorial, They Risked Their Lives, July 30, 2011))
- The total number of refugees who entered the U.S. in the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2011 was nearly 20,000 fewer than the year before and 24,000 less than the 80,000 authorized by Congress.2.
- A State Department official acknowledged that admittances of Iraqi refugees to the U.S. would drop in 2011 even for Iraqis who are at risk of persecution. ((New York Times Editorial, They Risked Their Lives, July 30, 2011))
- Journalist George Packer wrote in July 2011, “[t]he Kentucky case has spooked the agencies and removed any incentive for jittery officials to do right by the Iraqis who, at unbelievable risk to themselves and their families, supported the U.S. during the long years of war.” ((Iraqi Refugees: A Debt Defaulted, New Yorker Magazine, George Packer, July 29, 2011))
- “The flow of Iraqis to the U.S. in 2011 could be the smallest since 2007, when the Bush Administration was facing an uproar for not effectively addressing the refugee crisis.”3
- Unrest Strands Iraqis in Syria, by Tim Arango, New York Times, 1/23/2012
- In Iraq, Abandoning Our Friends, by Kirk Johnson, New York Times, 12/15/2011
- Troops Exit, But U.S. Role Remains, by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarick, Politico.com, 12/15/2011
- An Iraqi regrets helping U.S., BND.com, by Trudy Rubin, 11/22/2011
- Iraqi Refuge: A Long Wait for Reunification, Fronteras, by Jill Reploge, November 4, 2011
- Leaving Iraq: What About the Refugees?, Foreign Policy, by Josh Rogin, October 21, 2011
- Final Troop Withdrawal Should Not Signal End of U.S. Commitment to the Most Vulnerable Iraqis, Human Rights First, by Ruthie Epstein, October 25, 2011
- Obama Should Honor his Promise to Our Iraqi Helpers, Phili.com, by Trudy Rubin, October 16, 2011
- Refugees, Hairdressers and Homeland Security, by Mark Hetfield (Senior Vice President of HIAS), Huffington Post, 10/7/2011
- Iraqi Asylum Seekers Fear Being Left Behind by U.S.: Those who risked lives aiding troops fret over pullout plans,Iraqi Asylum Seekers Fear Being Left Behind by U.S. (570) Reuters, August 14, 2011
- Iraqi Remains Dangerous- U.S. Obligation to Iraqi Refugees Persists, Human Rights First, Ruthie Epstein, August 2, 2011
- Young Iraqi refugees dream of Seattle, wait in limbo in Syria (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- They Risked Their Lives, New York Times Editorial, July 30, 2011
- Iraqi Refugees: A Debt Defaulted, New Yorker Magazine, George Packer, July 29, 2011
- Iraqi Workers Fear Betrayal by the United States, Philadelphia Inquirer,by Trudy Rubin, July 26, 2011
- We Can’t Abandon Iraqis Who Aided U.S., Washington Post by Kirk Johnson, July 24, 2011
- U.S. Doing Little to Help Iraqis Who Aided Troops, Philly.com, by Trudy Rubin, July 17, 2011
- Visa Delays Put Iraqis Who Aided U.S. in Fear, New York Times, by Tim Arango, July 12, 2011
- New York Times Editorial, They Risked Their Lives, July 30, 2011 [↩]
- Refugees, Hairdressers and Homeland Security, by Mark Hetfield (Senior Vice President of HIAS), Huffington Post, 10/7/2011 [↩]
- New York Times article, Visa Delays Put Iraqis Who Aided U.S. in Fear, by Tim Arango, July 12, 2011 [↩]
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