Certain veteran and refugee groups are concerned that an executive order by President Donald Trump to temporarily ban refugees from entering the United States.
The groups say that the ban will hurt foreign interpreters who helped American troops in combat zones.
“With today’s Executive Order, the president has shut the door on thousands of foreign interpreters, our wartime allies, who served alongside our military since 2001,” said Matt Zeller, an Army veteran and CEO and co-founder of No One Left Behind.
Zeller fought in Afghanistan and also fought to get his translator, Janis, to the U.S., despite an enormous backlog of applications. “As you know, without Janis, my Afghan translator, I would not be speaking to you today. I would have been killed by two Taliban fighters in the hills of Afghanistan and not fighting for interpreters’ rights today,” Zeller said.
The President signed an executive order on Friday that he said would ensure refugees were thoroughly vetted to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S.
The order, titled “Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” also bars all persons from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen from entering the Untied States for 30 days and suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days until it is reinstated “only for nationals of countries from whom” members of Trump’s Cabinet deem can be properly vetted.
Trump’s ban includes those through a program that Afghanistan and Iraq War translators have used to apply for admission to the United States in exchange for their service to U.S. troops.
Zeller says that the four month ban could leave interpreters to “languish and fend for themselves against the very enemies we asked them to help us fight.” Such policies have been damaging to U.S. interests in the past, leaving those who have been loyal to the U.S. in peril in their home countries, and feeling that they have been stabbed in the back after placing their lives on the line in order to help the U.S.
“An indefinite ban on Iraqi refugees leaves countless thousands to be hunted for their service to the United States. We now fail to keep our country’s promise to these Iraqi allies who’ve waited patiently for years for their visas,” Zeller said.
“Our credibility will be forever neutered if not eroded. Why would any potential ally ever trust America to keep its word again? It pains me to think how many US soldiers will now die in future wars because we couldn’t recruit the local support that is often the difference between life and death,” he said.
Zeller also noted the emotional toll that the ban would take on U.S. troops who are likely to feel as if they are abandoning their allies. “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. Vietnam Veterans speak often of their half-century injury at having abandoned so many of our Vietnamese allies. Today, the President has cast the same injury onto the newest generation of American veterans,” he said.