Secretary of Defense James Mattis is reportedly asking for Iraqis who have helped the U.S. military to be exempt from the recently imposed 90-day travel ban.
A Pentagon official told The Washington Examiner that Mattis wants Iraqi interpreters and pilots traveling to the U.S. to learn how to fly F-16s exempted from Trump’s executive order on immigration.
According to this official, no change would have to be made to the memo as such. Rather, the clarification would be handled by the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration.
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, also a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War, said the executive order harms national security, as it could incite attacks against the U.S., but added he does not believe Mattis supports the temporary travel ban.
“You know I worked for Gen. Mattis,” Moulton told ABC News. “I know him. There is no way in hell that he is supportive of this. He relied on translators for his life, just like I did. He understands what it means to put your life in the hands of an Iraqi or an Afghan. He also knows that implicit in that is that they put their lives in our hands as well and now we’re abandoning them.”
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis later told The Washington Examiner that the White House will allow the Pentagon to draft up a list of Iraqis for special consideration.
Two former Iraqi translators have said they feel like the ban is a total betrayal.
“Today the US administration is abandoning us,” now-unemployed translator Ali al-Ubaidi said. “With this order of Trump we will be easy prey for the criminals. Isis and other groups are chasing us and aim to kill us, because they consider us as traitors.”
One Iraqi translator has already been caught up in the mess. Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an interpreter during the Iraq War, was detained Friday evening, but released Saturday. Authorities say he will be permitted to stay in the U.S. What happens to the rest of the Iraqis, however, is unclear at this time.
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