Defense Department officials have welcomed a decision from the U.S. government to allow Iraqi translators and interpreters with special documentation to travel to the United States, a Pentagon spokesman has said.
"We are pleased that the U.S. government has determined that it's in the national interest to allow Iraqi special immigrant visa holders to continue to travel to the United States," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told Pentagon reporters.
The Iraqis, as well as other local partners around the world, provide services that are mission critical to the Defense Department, Davis said.
"These partnerships are vital to the success of all our military efforts, and in many cases [these are] people who've worked and put themselves in great personal risk in doing so," Davis said.
"A lot of people who serve, a lot of people in military who currently serve, a lot of our veterans owe their lives to these people, literally, and we want to make sure that that is taken into account when they face the U.S. immigration process," he added.
President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order last week that halts entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants from seven countries, including Iraq, into the United States for 90 days, excluding foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, NATO visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas.
Davis said DoD officials are working with State Department and Department of Homeland Security officials to "review potential impacts of the executive order on our partners and our operations" and to "determine if there are additional ways we can provide assistance to our proven partners from the affected countries."
U.S. service members are able to travel on their assigned military missions without impact, he said.
"As for family members," he said, "we're working closely with the State Department and DHS to help them grant case-by-case waivers where necessary for their travel, if a family member happens to be somebody from one of these countries."
The seven countries in the executive order are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
By Lisa Ferdinando