“…What seems to be lacking at the State Department and other branches of the government is a sense of urgency. While the danger posed to Iraqis who worked for the United States continues to rise, the process of seeking sanctuary in America remains difficult and drawn out. For one thing, Iraqis must still leave their country before they can even request shelter—a proviso now complicated by the fact that Jordan and Syria have closed their borders to refugees. Once abroad, applicants get screened first by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and then by a separate American panel to determine how desperate their situation really is—and whether sanctuary is essential. Those who qualify can languish for months until officials from the Department of Homeland Security fly out to conduct an additional screening (though not in Syria, since the authorities there won’t grant entry visas to DHS officials). When the State Department was criticized earlier this year for the slow pace, Sauerbrey promised that 7,000 Iraqi refugees would be welcomed in by the end of the year. The number was later downgraded to 2,000, but even that goal seems likely to go unmet.
Sauerbrey told NEWSWEEK the Bush administration had done plenty to help the refugees get by in their host countries, including providing millions to Jordan to shore up its overburdened school system. But she also appeared to downplay the scope of the problem. She disputed that 2 million Iraqis had already fled the country—the figure cited by the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations—and she said most of the refugees are hopeful about their prospects of returning home. “Iraqis have not given up on Iraq,” Sauerbrey said. “Iraqis want to go home.” It’s that kind of talk that prompts some critics to ascribe a political motive to the Bush administration’s sluggishness. “The administration could cut through the red tape and bring these people here in days or weeks,” says Kirk Johnson, who worked in Fallujah for the United States government’s Agency for International Development. “But that would be tantamount to admitting the situation isn’t getting better in Iraq, and they’re unwilling to admit that.” (Sauerbrey denied that any of the decisions in the process are politically motivated.)”
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