Less than a week after President Donald Trump issued a ban on travel from seven countries, his order is now amended to make an exception for Iraqi translators who helped the U.S. military in Iraq.
The change was quietly made on Thursday but celebrated by some veterans who are working to bring former allies to the United States.
The news of the amended order was a welcome surprise for retired Dallas Army Captain Allen Vaught.
“I thought eventually something would happen, but not in a matter of days,” he said. “So I'm very, very happy.”
FOX 4 has followed Vaught’s efforts to help his Iraqi translator, a man being called “Sam,” to immigrate to the United States.
“We had the usual red tape, and we did an interview with FOX 4 back in December,” Vaught said. “Lo-and-behold, the red tape was unclogged and we got a hearing. All that was left was medical then came the executive order. Then, it was all for nothing.”
Even though the order was temporary, Sam, who worked alongside Captain Vaught in Fallujah in 2003, was in hiding, running out of resources and facing persecution for helping the U.S. military.
“Some of them were killed,” he said. “Of my five translators, two were executed.”
Vaught publicly asked President Trump to exclude translators from the travel ban, and he was not alone.
Congressman and veteran Duncan Hunter was part of a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers who signed a letter in support of Secretary of Defense General James Mattis and his* request to exempt interpreters and aides.
“The Iraqi interpreters who helped the American forces on the ground and are still helping us — those guys should be an exception to this rule,” Hunter said.
Arizona Senator John McCain even tweeted an op-ed written by Vaught. It appears the administration took notice. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed the executive order is amended.
“There's still a lot of things to be sorted out, but it’s going in the right direction because of so many people, so many Americans coming together and making their voices heard,” Vaught said.
Voices that may now give interpreters like Sam a fighting chance.
“He was part of our team. He was one of our soldiers,” Vaught said. “Sam will make a great American once we get him here.”
It is not a given that Sam will come to the U.S. He was in the process of immigrating, even though he did not apply in time for the special immigrant visa. Those applications closed back in 2014. There were still Iraqis in the pipeline.
But according to the Customs and Border Protection website, it looks like the applications process is reopening.