In 2011, the officers for whom the brothers worked helped them get special immigrant visas for translators for the U.S. military, a program that no longer exists.
Given the risk to their family, the two brothers applied immediately to the P-2 program to get them to America. After five years of security checks and interviews, the family was informed by the U.S. Embassy in 2016 that they were cleared for visas.
But the night before departure, the family received a call from the embassy informing them that their travel clearance was revoked, and shortly afterward, their visas were denied.
The refusal was reversed on appeal. But then nothing.
With the election of Biden, the Al-Baidhanis hoped their chances would improve. Yet the Biden administration suspended the P-2 program for Iraqis in early 2021 because of some suspected misuse, and only restarted it in March 2022. The numbers are creeping up to around 100 admissions a month, which barely touches the backlog.
The Al-Baidhani family was finally reinterviewed in Baghdad on Aug. 23 for nine hours about every mundane detail of their lives. But instead of finally getting visa approval, they received a printout stating that further “review of your eligibility” was required. This, after 12 years in process.
“We served in the army, we proved our loyalty. This is so frustrating,” Khalid told me by phone this week. “There is no way to find out how long it will take.”
Equally upset was Wisam’s congressman, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “We have a special obligation to those who helped us, and this family should be reunited,” McGovern told me. “Yet we have been given no reason why it hasn’t happened. There clearly is no sense of urgency.”
That’s unacceptable. The White House could make this program a bipartisan success story that would offset America’s growing reputation as a country that betrays its allies.
But in the meantime, the immigration service should let the Al-Baidhanis’ family in immediately. There is no conceivable excuse for holding them in limbo.