Two Illinois business partners who are veterans of the Iraq War now find themselves in a race against time to help an Iraqi man who risked his life to help American troops.
“Jaguar”, as he is known to his military friends, said he faces near daily threats in Baghdad after working as an interpreter and security specialist for the US government during the height of the war and insurgency.
“Even shopping I can’t go outside,” Jaguar said. “I send my wife and my kid.”
Majid Jabber, a former translator who obtained a Special Immigrant Visa in 2007 and now lives in Toulon, Illinois, said the threat to Jaguar and other Iraqis who were employed by the US government remains all too real.
“When you work with the US, you’re technically declaring ‘I’m a traitor’,” Jabber said. “I’ve been shot at it several times. My car got blown up. My father was killed because of that.”
Illinois National Guard veteran John Taylor patrolled alongside Jaguar in areas near Baghdad in 2004 and 2005 and said his friend does not have time to wait.
“To me, these men are heroes and leaving them behind is the equivalent of leaving behind one of my fellow comrades and essentially a death sentence,” Taylor said.
Jaguar received recommendations from military officers and supervisors and applied for a Special Immigration Visa in 2011. He is awaiting a second interview in the approval process.
Taylor has contacted lawmakers regarding updates in Jaguar’s visa application and also helped him apply for humanitarian parole through the US Department of Homeland Security. The parole is used sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States due to a compelling emergency.
The US State Department said more than 19,000 Iraqis and their families benefited from the Special Immigrant Visa. However, the government cancelled the program for Iraqis in 2014. Many of those who applied before the cutoff, including Jaguar, are still waiting for approval. A spokesperson for the State Department told NBC 5 wait times vary by applicant and each application is thoroughly vetted.
“These translators risked their lives to serve alongside US servicemen and servicewomen,“ said Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois). “I have long advocated that we should do all we can to help those who have helped our troops and now find themselves in danger.”
Meanwhile, Taylor said Jaguar’s humanitarian parole application was officially received and a decision will be made at some point in the future.
Jaguar said he has computer and security skills in addition to his experience as a translator. He told NBC 5 via Skype that he appreciates the people and congressmen of Illinois. He also acknowledged Taylor’s help and dedication.
“He give me all the time support and we have a chance to move me with my family to United States,” Jaguar told NBC 5 via Skype.
Jabber, who was nicknamed “GQ” by US troops, found work as an engineer soon after moving to Toulon. He later connected with Taylor and the two formed a business partnership. They own seven Sinbad Vapors stores across northern Illinois.
A spokesperson for the humanitarian group No One Left Behind estimates two to four families from Iraq and Afghanistan come to Chicago each month ready to start a new life.