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Saving the United States' Iraqi Translators

Interviewee: Kirk Johnson, Director, List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies
Interviewer: Greg Bruno, Staff Writer
June 18, 2008

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have worked for the United States in Iraq as translators, contractors, and office workers since 2003. Today many are marked for death, labeled as collaborators by their countrymen. But while a growing number of these former employees look to leave Iraq and start over in the United States, few Iraqis have been allowed to settle on American shores.

Kirk Johnson is a former USAID worker in Iraq who directs the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. Johnson has spent the last year and half navigating a Byzantine bureaucracy to help as many Iraqi translators he can resettle in the United States. So far he's helped 92. But his list of Iraqis seeking a new life has grown to over 1,000. More are added every day. "The traditional mechanisms by which the United States resettles refugees are slow moving," Johnson says, and "absolutely incapable of dealing with a crisis and swiftly resettling Iraqis."

Johnson says while Congress has expressed an interest in resettling Iraqi translators, the executive branch of the government has so far failed to make the issue a priority. "The region is watching what we do with the Iraqis who have helped us," he says. "If we save them, we send a signal to the world that our principles are intact."

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