Report on Congressman Bill Foster’s Forum on Executive Orders 2/13/2016 Islamic Center of Naperville
Reporting By Dave Reynolds of our DPDC communications Team
“One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
A sunny Monday morning brought more than 200 people together at the Islamic Center of Naperville. The day began with a hearty Pledge of Allegiance spoken by a diverse and enthusiastic group reciting the pledge with a renewed spirit.
Congressman Bill Foster hosted this discussion with members of the community who are directly affected by President Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.. The most notable participants included a local high school student, a U.S. Army Veteran who was aided by an interpreter in Afghanistan and the Afghan interpreter who helped him.
One of the first presenters was a young woman from a Naperville high school who grew up in Naperville and is a talented athlete and student. She described several events in which comments were made related to her Muslim heritage. One of which was from someone she had known for at least three years. The person said they hope she “will send them postcards from the concentration camp.” The person who made the comment was reprimanded but it illustrates the level of intolerance that exists and makes one wonder how they can defend a remark like that.
The issue that was more immediate — and possibly one of life and death — was represented by Adam Malaty-Uhr, a U.S. Army Veteran and Hemi, who acted as Adam’s interpreter in Afghanistan. Hemi took the dangerous job of acting as an interpreter after being encouraged by his family. His mother said that “the Americans are here to help us and we should help them.” Hemi served with Adam and later with units located in other areas of the country.
When Hemi returned to his village he found that the Taliban had instructed the people to reject anyone who had worked with the Americans. His home was attacked and his life was threatened. Hemi applied for a Special Immigration Visa (SIV), a program created in 2008. Its goal was to allow military interpreters whose lives were in danger because of their work for U.S. forces in Afghanistan to come to the United.States.
The State Department estimates it takes an alphabet of federal agencies (CIA, DEA, National Security, etc.) at least 270 days to process a special immigrant visa. In Hemi’s case, it took 5 years. He’s now safely in the this country, but there are many who have been left behind. Jeff Sessions, our new U.S. Attorney General, is one of the senators that has slowed down this process. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/12/02/afghan-visa-program-extended-despite-pushback-from-immigration-foes/?utm_term=.a3601dd006fa
Congressman Bill Foster, Shoaib Khadri (president, Islamic Center of Naperville) and all others involved should be commended for providing such an excellent forum for this issue. It’s a great start!
“The mission of No One Left Behind is to help Afghan and Iraqi combat interpreters with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) resettle safely in the United States. We bridge the gap that exists between current State Department and NGO refugee relief programs, and provide assistance with housing, employment and cultural adaptation. We treat our clients as the heroic veterans they are.”