Shaheen Statement on New Muslim Ban Exemption for Selected Iraqi Interpreters and Support Staff

January 31, 2017

(Washington, DC)—Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement after the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will exempt certain Iraqi interpreters and support staff from President Trump’s Muslim ban executive order. This directive will allow Iraqis who have or will receive a Special Immigrant Visa for their service to the United States and the threats they face as a result, to come to the United States.

“I’m relieved that this exemption has been made,” said Shaheen. “However, this exemption doesn’t cover all of the Iraqis who supported the U.S. mission in their country, much less the countless other Iraqis and nationals of other countries unjustly barred by this executive order. This Muslim ban is a broken promise for many interpreters who risked everything to help our soldiers and diplomats accomplish the mission and return home safely. Discriminating based on religion and nationality severely undermines the local alliances and trust established by our troops and diplomats in the field and jeopardizes local support in future missions. It is also un-American and grossly inhumane. The administration must still revoke this executive order.”

Yesterday, Senator Shaheen led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis urging him to intercede with President Trump to ensure that properly-vetted individuals who supported U.S. missions overseas and face threats as a result continue to be allowed entry to the United States. In the letter, the Senators mention Secretary Mattis’ support for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which came up in his confirmation hearings earlier this month. During his nomination hearing, Secretary Mattis pledged to “work to ensure that these programs have sufficient visas that those who provided critical support and whose lives are threatened are not left behind.”

The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program ceased taking new applications in 2014; however, due to the long, rigorous application process, some of these applications are still being processed and visas continue to be granted. The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program continues to take applications.