As the fallout from President Trump’s immigration ban continued on Monday, newly sworn in Defense Secretary James Mattis took action to deal with a portion of the controversy.
General Mattis is compiling a list of Iraqis who helped U.S. troops during the war in order to attempt to obtain an exemption from the ban for them. The group that Mattis is seeking is to exempt is one that has been the subject of particular controversy with a broad range of groups including veterans who have been speaking out for the Iraqi nationals who, for years, aided the U.S. forces as interpreters and such, whose lives are likely in substantial danger in their own country.
On Friday, Trump signed a hastily drafted and implemented executive order that prohibits foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq — but not Afghanistan — from entering the United States for at least 90 days.
These Iraqis, who were granted what’s known as special immigrant visas, have been caught in the ban, with some detained at U.S. airports over the weekend. The special immigrant visa program allows Iraqis and Afghans who helped the United States as interpreters and other roles during the wars in those countries to resettle in America.
As Mattis is working on the list, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has written to Trump in support of the exemptions:
“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump on Monday. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger.”
The letter was led by California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, an early Trump supporter, and Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger, who was an outspoken critic of Trump throughout the campaign. It is also signed by Reps. Steve Stiver (R-OH), Seth Moulton (D- MA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).