Women

Feds Denied Iraqi Mom’s Return To The U.S., Despite Death Threats

Feds Denied Iraqi Mom's Return To The U.S., Despite Death Threats

Lamia remembers when her family members started getting threatening text messages from members of the Shiite militia in their region of Iraq. Her father, who worked as a translator for the U.S. military, got them first — before he was killed, in 2006.

Lamia, who is being identified by a pseudonym because she’s concerned for her safety, eventually started to get the same kinds of messages. The militia’s patience with her was running out, they told her.

She knew she needed to leave Iraq, and in June 2016, her refugee application to the U.S. was approved. The problem: Her husband’s application was still pending. But Lamia was afraid of what could happen to her and her two children, so they left for the U.S., and hoped her husband would shortly follow.

“I had hoped that I and the rest of my family would all be resettled in the U.S. and have a new and comfortable life where we can be safe,” she told HuffPost.

Once in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lamia quickly began building a new life. She enrolled her children in the local public school system while she attended a job training program.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Lamia’s husband received a bullet in the mail as a warning from the local militia. He was still married to Lamia, a woman whose family had betrayed them, and he was not safe.

“I was afraid he would receive the same fate as my father,” Lamia said.

Lamia traveled to Iraq with her two children the next month, in July 2017. She wanted her children to see her husband, even if for the last time.

She never expected that she would still be in Iraq almost eight years later — long enough for her to have a third child there — because of the U.S. immigration system.

More than 3 million refugees have been resettled in the U.S since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act. But it can take years for refugees to solidify their case and be granted residency, and the government’s refugee admission program has long suffered from backlogs and delays due. Severe cuts to the program’s budget under President Donald Trump made these problems even worse.

Even after being resettled, refugees face a litany of challenges, including language barriers, reduced access to housing and economic opportunities and the challenge of obtaining citizenship. They also endure yearslong delays and difficult decisions — decisions that, as in Lamia’s case, can put their lives in danger.

According to the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship website, refugees are allowed to travel back…

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