Iraqi interpreters bridge the U.S. Congressional divide

Published October 4th, 2013 - 10:34 GMT
U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy walks to the House Chamber for a vote October 3, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Democrats and the Republicans have come together to extend a measure granting visas to Iraqi interpreters. (Image credit: AFP)
U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy walks to the House Chamber for a vote October 3, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Democrats and the Republicans have come together to extend a measure granting visas to Iraqi interpreters. (Image credit: AFP)

Nowadays, it appears that the Democrats and Republicans can't agree on anything. The relations between the two parties have deteriorated to the point where a provisional budget couldn't be passed resulting in the first government shutdown in 17 years.

The two parties came together to save a program that grants special visas to civilian interpreters who risked their lives to work for the American military in Iraq. Reuters reports that the measure was passed unanimously in both chambers of the US Congress and sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

When the five year old visa plan ended on September 30, it threatened to halt the visa processing for thousands of Iraqis who had helped the American military during the near decade long war. The 2,500 odd interpreters whose visas are awaiting approval are often at risk from extremists who consider them traitors for having helped American forces.

“These are the interpreters, the guides, drivers, people who performed a myriad of functions that were essential for American operations,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who introduced the first legislation on the program six years ago. “Last night, the United States sent a signal that we are not going to leave them behind.”

The members of both the House and Senate plan to extend the program for Iraqi as well as Afghan civilians.


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