Illinois friends of an Iraqi man waiting for a Special Immigrant Visa fear he won’t be able to move to the United States any time soon as a result of President Trump’s executive order restricting immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
The Iraqi translator, nicknamed “Jaguar”, risked his life to help American troops during the height of the Iraq War and insurgency. He applied for the Special Immigrant Visa in 2011, received recommendations from military officers and supervisors, and is currently awaiting a second interview in the approval process.
John Taylor is a former Illinois National Guardsman who patrolled alongside Jaguar in areas near Baghdad in 2004 and 2005. 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.
But Taylor said the recent executive order on immigration is making him think “outside the box” for new ways to help Jaguar.
“We’re making plans to see if we can get him to another country. It may end up being somewhere in Europe. Ideally, it be nice to get him to North America,” Taylor said. “Maybe when the time is right, he can come to the United States.”
In an email to NBC, Jaguar explained his understanding of the President’s order targeting refugees and immigrants from Iraq and the other listed countries from traveling to the US.
“I think Mr. Trump personally didn’t mean to stop traveling for good,” wrote Jaguar. “I think he wants to stop and fix immigration illegals.”
Taylor’s business partner, Majid Jabber, himself a former Iraqi translator who moved to the US on a Special Immigrant Visa in 2007, said he was taken aback by the executive order and that translators seeking to move to the US do not have the luxury of time. Many Iraqis who worked for the US military are considered “traitors” by extremists, according to Jabber.
Jaguar said he faces near daily threats in Baghdad and cannot leave his house.
“I can only imagine what ‘Jaguar’ is feeling right now,” Jabber said. “You’re really fighting for your life every second.”
Over the weekend another Iraqi man who worked as an interpreter for the US military was detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport following President Trump’s executive order.
“We need to appreciate the service that they’ve had, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t let them in without a certain degree of vetting,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer during a press conference Monday. “The onus is on us to make sure that we’re protecting the American people.”
Jabber now lives in Toulon, Illinois. He found work as an engineer before partnering with Taylor to open a chain of vape stores across northern Illinois.