News from the Week of July 3rd

Here’s another round-up of what we’ve been reading and watching, from the news and around the web: 

This week Americans enjoyed barbeques, picnics, and fireworks in celebration of Independence Day. Veterans for American Ideals honored the day by recognizing a VFAI veteran whose story reminds us what it truly means to be American. Adam Babiker fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan in 2001 and was welcomed into the United States as refugee in 2006. The warm welcome he received here inspired him to enlist in the U.S. Army and to serve in Iraq. Today Adam continues his service in his new home of Houston, Texas by helping other refugees build new lives in America. For Adam, “American ideals are the determination of somebody who is stateless to cross all this ocean, to start a new life, become a good citizen, and live in peace.” 

We also were inspired this week by VFAI leaders in New York City teaming up with Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the Synagogue Coalition for the Refugee and Immigration Crisis to deliver donated household items to a former Afghan interpreter and his family, who recently resettled in the United States on the Special Immigrant Visa program. Not to be outdone, VFAI leaders in Boston did the same, moving donated furniture and setting up a home for a newly arrived refugee family from Iraq. And in Minnesota, Ayaz Virji, a Muslim American and Georgetown-trained doctor, is giving public lectures about Islam in and around his hometown of Dawson, in the hopes of fostering understanding and combating fear. 

Lastly, on June 26th, the Supreme Court issued a partial implementation of the Trump Administration’s executive order barring immigration from six majority-Muslim countries and capping the total number of refugees to be admitted to the United States. Under the ruling, only individuals with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity” can enter the United States. Despite having lived, worked, and fought alongside us, the Trump Administration has not included U.S.-affiliated Iraqis as part of their definition of a bona fide relationship. Numerous nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights First and VFAI, expressed concern about the narrow definition of “bona fide relationship” and in particular its exclusion of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. Government in Iraq. 

In reaction to the Supreme Court ruling VFAI members are speaking out to protect our allies and their families. In the Northeast, VFAI leader and former Iraqi interpreter Wisam Albaiedhani, who came to the United States on the Special Immigrant Visa program discussed with PRI how reinstating the travel ban may risk his family’s impending resettlement in the United States and endanger their lives. And on the West Coast, VFAI leaders Steve Miska and Mac McEachin talked with California-based KPCC radio about the importance of the program and keeping our promises to our allies. As Mac says, for these men and women, “it absolutely means life or death.”