The Washington Post recently reported on the State Department halt on processing visa applications for Iraqi translators due to a quota limit.
The halt is the latest obstacle for many of the several thousand translators who have worked for U.S. military units in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking their lives and leaving their families vulnerable to retaliation from insurgents who see them as accomplices of American troops. More than 250 interpreters working for U.S. forces or their contractors have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Many American service members have worked to help their former translators gain a visa to come to the United States under a 2006 congressional program initially designed to admit 50 translators per year, a quota later increased to 500.
The article also quotes TLP’s Kirk Johnson on the power of the president on the bureaucracy:
If this doesn’t prove why it’s President Bush’s responsibility to whip these bureaucracies into shape, and why the best intentions of Congress can only nudge things, I don’t know what else can,” said Johnson, a former staffer with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Iraq. “Until the president weighs in, the bureaucracies will not solve this.
There are many more Iraqis who served as translators for the US, and who have worked with contractors, than the special visas currently allow. This narrow quota has recently been increased to 5,000 due to a recently passed bill that was signed by President Bush, however, its implementation will not take affect immediately. In the mean time, Iraqis who have risked their lives working for the US are shunned until the inertia-ridden bureaucracy implements the new quota.