US to accelerate travel ban asylum process for Iraq interpreters

US to accelerate travel ban asylum process for Iraq interpreters
As part of a lawsuit settlement, the Trump administration has agreed to expedite hundreds of asylum petitions left in limbo after the 2017 travel ban was announced.
3 min read
11 February, 2020
The US will speed up asylum petitions that were suspended after the travel ban's announcement.
The US has agreed to accelerate the cases of hundreds of refugees, including former interpreters for the US military in Iraq, whose asylum petitions were halted since President Donald Trump's travel ban was announced in 2017, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The concession was announced in a settlement filed in a Seattle federal court on Monday. The lawsuit involved over 300 refugees once close to getting the green light to enter the US in 2017, only to see their applications suspended after the White House rolled out a ban on immigrants from countries deemed security risks, many of which are Muslim-majority.

Some of the refugees affected by the lawsuit's outcome are close relatives of asylum seekers who are already in the US, according to the AP.

Others are from countries such as Iran and Somalia, all of which are on Trump's travel ban list.

Refugees whose cases were halted after the initial executive order ended up with expired petition documentation, such as background checks and medical clearances.

The travel ban, announced in January 2017, was met with legal challenges across the US, while the Supreme Court eventually upheld the ban in June 2018.

Last month, the Trump administration restricted legal immigration from six additional countries: Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

The settlement in question is a conclusion to consolidated lawsuits filed by multiple parties, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Jewish Family Services and the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Seattle District Judge James Robart blocked restrictions on refugees who are relatives of those already in the US. Judge Robart previously moved to block Trump's initial travel ban in 2017.

"The government tried to keep refugee families apart under the pretense of national security," said ACLU of Washington Staff Attorney Lisa Nowlin in a statement. "This settlement aims to undo the harmful effects of the illegal and misguided ban on refugees."

The lawsuit's plaintiffs included former interpreters for the US military in Iraq, who sued under aliases for fear of retaliation.

According to the AP, one plaintiff in the lawsuit, a Texan Iraq war veteran named Allen Vaught, stated the refugee ban "derailed efforts to get my last surviving Iraqi translator, who served bravely alongside US military forces for many years, to the United States".

Read more: The Iraqi translators betrayed by the United States

Amid the fierce criticism Trump's travel ban elicited, many decried the inclusion of Iraq on the list, which affected Iraqi interpreters who aided US soldiers during the Iraq war.

Normally granted Special Immigrant Visas, a State Department initiative providing asylum for Afghan and Iraqi contractors to the US, Iraqi interpreters ended up stuck in their country despite the backlash they faced for working with the American military.

Though the settlement does not guarantee the refugees admission to the US, the government has agreed to give priority to their cases.

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The Iraqi translators betrayed by the United States