WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of House lawmakers who are military veterans are pleading with President Donald Trump to grant exceptions to his refugee and immigration ban for people who risked their lives to aid U.S. forces in the terror fight.
The lawmakers — 15 Republicans and one Democrat — also sought special consideration for children from war-torn regions in need of life-saving surgery, according to a letter sent to the president earlier this week and released Friday.
Trump's executive order barred entry of refugees for four months and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen — for three months and Syrians indefinitely.
The lawmakers argued the order is too broad and shuts out Iraqi interpreters who served along with U.S. troops in combat, individuals who have provided information, and political and business leaders removed from their positions. They said America's enemies see these "risk takers" as enemies, but that they should be counted as friends.
"For such individuals, time is not an ally," the group wrote. "There is no place to which they may return for a normal life even after stability and reconstruction in their devastated lands."
The Trump administration, at the urging of the Pentagon, did exempt Iraqis who were granted special immigrant visas from the ban. To qualify for one of the special visas, applicants must have worked a minimum of 12 months directly for the U.S. military or government and must have a letter of recommendation from a general or flag officer from a military branch or from an American embassy.
The lawmakers include conservative members of Congress from Oklahoma, Louisiana and Utah. They said they are motivated after walking "among these valiant and courageous souls who have helped the U.S. armed forces" and concerned for suffering children.
The letter illustrates lingering frustration on Capitol Hill with Trump's order, which he issued last week without consulting Republican leaders. The House lawmakers steer clear of picking a fight with the president — they don't dispute the "improvements" to the U.S. immigration system the new policy is aiming to make.
But they make clear the net has been cast too wide and could have a chilling effect in future conflicts as people may shy away from aiding American troops in combat zones.
"We must make it clear that Americans can be trusted to stand with those who have stood with us," the lawmakers wrote.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus, testifying Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, said a senior Iraqi general who has led the fight against the Islamic State has been blocked from coming to the U.S. to meet with his American counterparts because of the order.
Among the lawmakers to sign the letter are Reps. Steve Russell, R-Okla., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Chris Stewart, R-Utah, and Ralph Abraham, R-La.
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