In his State of the Union address, President Trump once again made a strong case for border security and immigration reform, declaring it our “moral duty” to protect the lives of our citizens, while emphasizing the importance of legal immigration. The President said: “Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country, in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”
The American people agree. According to a CBS News poll, seventy-two percent of speech-watchers “approved of President Trump’s ideas for immigration.” In other words, they view the security and sovereignty of our nation as a moral imperative, but also want an immigration system that favors those who have earned the privilege of becoming an American. No group is more deserving of that privilege than the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis who have risked their lives assisting our armed forces in the fight against al-Qaeda and ISIS, and now seek refuge in the United States through SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) applications or other programs.
One case, in particular, stands out – that of Shaker Jeffrey, a globally renowned Yezidi-Iraqi human rights advocate who served as a combat interpreter, or “terp,” with frontline US Army infantry units in Northern Iraq.Shaker’s story, soon to be published as a memoir, SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN, from Hachette, is one of danger, intrigue, heroism, and the deep bond of brotherhood between him and the soldiers he served with - built around their shared love of America.
During his service, Shaker undertook several “extreme-risk” missions to dismantle terror cells in the most volatile areas, and was wounded twice in battle. When ISIS invaded Iraq in March 2014 and began slaughtering his fellow Yezidi in one of the most brutal genocides in history, Shaker helped hundreds of survivors flee into the mountains. From there, he made contact with several of his old US military “brothers,” who took his case to Capitol Hill and had him brief elected officials via speaker-phone, risking his life to provide key intelligence on enemy numbers, positions, activities and weaponry. Eventually, they tethered his cellphone signal directly to CENTCOM.
Shaker managed to flee to Germany, but neither his fight against ISIS nor the danger to his life ended there. As co-founder of “the Mosquitoes,” an underground rescue organization that specializes in liberating Yezidi sex slaves from ISIS captivity, he has since gone back several times behind enemy lines, risking his life to infiltrate ISIS and rescue its victims, working alongside fellow Yezidi and Nobel laureate Nadia Murad to advocate their cause and document ISIS’s crimes against humanity.
Ironically, Shaker faces as much danger in Germany as he did in Iraq. The German government’s disastrous “open-border” immigration policies in the wake of the Syrian crisis have allowed scores of ISIS jihadists and sympathizers to flood the country posing as refugees. They continue to terrorize the true refugee community, and have several times threatened Shaker’s life – going so far as to hack his communications, break into his apartment, and even physically assault him. To maintain his safety in Europe, Shaker employs security measures as strict as those required of him in Iraq while serving alongside our forces.
Shaker’s case is a textbook example of why President Trump is right to call for a secure border coupled with an immigration system that favors and rewards those, like Shaker, who have followed the legal process and truly earned the right to obtain residency in the United States.
As to our greater national security, while ISIS stands on the brink of defeat in Iraq and Syria, its network of cells continue to operate worldwide, and our forces continue to engage them in some of the most hostile regions on earth. Without local assistance from people like Shaker, our military will not only find themselves facing even greater danger, but will also be unable to eliminate threats overseas before they reach America. Therefore, as the hundreds of veterans who are helping Shaker and others like him agree, it is critical that we reward and protect those who risk everything to help us by guaranteeing them refuge in the United States. The Shakers of the world need to know that we will have their backs after they have had ours for so long.
Too many times throughout history the United States has failed to live up to this message – and its end of the bargain. Hopefully, in this case, Shaker will be able to add a “Hollywood Ending” to his memoir with the granting of his visa and his arrival in an America that welcomes him with open arms. It could be a “Hollywood Ending” for President Trump, too, one that elevates his presidency above those of his predecessors – from President Nixon, who abandoned our allies in Vietnam, to President Obama, who signed the SIV program into law, but never made it a priority. That widens the moral imperative into something well beyond the issues of immigration or border security - but a lasting presidential legacy.