While the U.S. resettlement program remains one of the safest alternatives for thousands of Iraqi refugees fleeing sectarian violence, it is underfunded and relies on refugee self-sufficiency "in a reactive manner that lacks strategy, flexibility and compassion," concluded the International Rescue Committee in a June report titled "Iraqi Refugees in the United States: In Dire Straits.
Without jobs, the refugees, who are eager to work, quickly exhaust the resources available from refugee agencies that contract with the U.S. government. Private donations the program depends on have plummeted. Unable to pay the rent, Iraqis face homelessness. Some who worked as interpreters with U.S. troops have gone back, exposing themselves again to death threats by militias.
Into this mix stepped people like U.S. Army Capt. Jason Faler.
Faler, an Iraq war veteran now living in Oregon, started the Checkpoint One Foundation in 2006 (www.cponefoundation.org) to help bring his former Iraqi interpreters to the United States. Hundreds of interpreters who worked with U.S. forces in Iraq have been tortured and killed by sectarian extremists, accused of aiding the enemy.
Faler's foundation has grown in ways he didn't imagine. The nonprofit expanded from helping Iraqis defray travel and immigration costs to providing temporary housing and job search aid.
"I think that we are morally obligated as a nation to make good on, or at least to repay, the sacrifices that were made on our behalf," Faler said.
All Iraqi refugees are deserving of the country's help, he added.
"I think this is what separates us as a nation and a people from the rest of the world," he said, "our ability to recognize when our choices, our actions, just or unjust, have had an impact and consequences on others, and our endeavor to right that."