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Extend visa program to aid Iraqi translators

With nearly 17,000 spots remaining, the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa program expired on Sept. 30, removing the opportunity for Iraqi citizens who worked as translators to move to the United States in appreciation of service to our military during the Iraq War.

While it is common knowledge that Buffalo is home to many refugees, there are also Iraqi families who have resettled under this program. Through my work with a local resettlement agency, I have had the opportunity to work with these families and can attest that they are a wonderful addition to our city.

Many visa holders arrive with special employment and high language skills, enabling them to enter the workplace quickly and give back to their communities. One client I worked with is now running his own small business, managing more than a dozen employees, after being here only a little over a year. Another family has lent their language skills to provide free interpretation and support for refugee job training and financial literacy classes. The discontinuation of these visas will not only take away opportunities for those who have applied for it, it will do a disservice to the communities in which they would be resettled.

We must remember that those who have signed up for this program have been victims of harassment, threats and violence. Many feel that their life is in danger. It is our duty to support these families, as they selflessly supported our military efforts, exposing themselves to trauma and putting themselves at risk.

Allowing this program to continue would be a simple way of bringing safety to the thousands of our Iraqi allies who are still waiting for relief.

Anne Bonfiglio

Buffalo