October 16, 2007

Worth noting: Iraqi refugees

Posted in Iraq at 9:56 am by The Lizard Queen

Came across this article via Crooks and Liars and wanted to direct my readers toward it.  In the rush to remove Saddam Hussein from power, I wonder if the administration ever considered that there would be people who would flee the violence.  It wasn’t a bloodless coup, and they knew it wasn’t going to be, and yet… well, here:

The war has chased more than 4 million Iraqis from their homes, the United Nations has reported. The number is expected to reach 5.5 million by the end of this year.

The United States admitted 1,608 — instead of the promised 7,000 — in the past fiscal year and says it is preparing to increase the flow. It committed in April to take 25,000 Iraqi refugees altogether. . . .

But the Bush administration has fallen far short of its goal of accepting 7,000 this year. At a Geneva conference in April, the United States pledged to take in as many as 25,000. [Ellen Dumesnil director of refugee resettlement for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara] said the slowdown is a clause in the Patriot Act that bars immigration to anyone who has offered “material support” to the enemy.

That includes people who have paid ransom to insurgents who have kidnapped their loved ones, she said.

But a spokesman for the State Department said the only bureaucratic bottleneck was the lack of “infrastructure” in Jordan and Syria. With two refugee processing centers now in place, 1,000 refugees should now enter the United States each month, Kurtis Cooper said in a telephone interview earlier this month.

“We consider those issues to have been addressed,” he said.

“It’s mystifying,” said [Kathleen Newland, director of Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization]. The long processing times occur “partly because they are Iraqis and the U.S. is conducting a war in Iraq,” she said. “But it’s also because … the government doesn’t want to concede the vast majority will not be able to go back.”

You can read the rest of the article, which includes individuals’ stories, here.

What gets to me more than the lack of sympathy from the government — that’s almost to be expected at this point — is the lack of sympathy evident in some of the comments on the article.  (I realize that, as a general rule, I just shouldn’t read comments threads, but I do anyway, I guess from that base rubbernecking impulse that most of us humans have.)  One person even went so far as to ask, “Another bunch of illegals??”  Is this just simple us-versus-them syndrome: the refugees are Other, and so it’s impossible for some people to sympathize?

I wish I had the answers.

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