The latest issue of the American Bar Association Journal has a cover story on Iraqi refugees and their advocates. The excellent article discusses the resettlement process with TLP’s partnering law firms, Proskauer Rose, Holland and Knight, and Mayer Brown. Kirk Johnson, TLP’s founder, is also interviewed.
Reading the article affirms the terribly long and arduous process for resettlement; a process that is rife with danger. The article mentions numerous pitfalls including being abducted by state security forces while in exile, the prohibitions on employment in Syria, and of course, the murderous crimes of anti-US militias.
Chris Nugent and Eric Blinderman, attorneys working for Iraqis on the list with the firms of Holland and Knight and Proskauer Rose respectively, related the difficulties of representing targeted Iraqis:
Nugent and Blinderman counsel Iraqis by cell and e-mail, sometimes using code in case a militia is monitoring a refugee’s communications. A militia or gang can get the hardware to trace communications for about $50,000.
While militias are often the main reason US-affiliated Iraqis seek resettlement, other obstacles stand between a visa and permanent exile. “Mike,” a translator for the US Army who is currently on the list, discussed the negative stigma pinned to those who helped the US:
Mike says his Syrian UNHCR interviewer handed him a folder emblazoned with “Not eligible to resettle” for his paperwork. The interviewer was scornful of Mike’s work with Americans. Other refugees on Johnson’s list have accused UNHCR’s Syrian staffers of mocking Iraqi refugees as “America’s dogs” and, more seriously, of leaking Iraqi refugees’ whereabouts to militias.
For Iraqis who have worked for the US, not only are their lives at stake, but they are treated with contempt by the very people who are their to help them. In this seemingly friend-less situation, the tireless work of the lawyers, pro-staff, law students, case managers, and everyone else who advocates for these refugees, is even more crucial. Rarely have there been so many legal professionals dedicating so many hours to help with a specific humanitarian issue and their efforts are worth celebrating as they get closer to resettling the hundredth person from the list.