The change, recommended by the Pentagon, eased some of the anger generated in Iraq by Trump’s executive order imposing the ban.

Share story

BAGHDAD — The Trump administration amended its visa ban Thursday to allow entry into the United States by families of Iraqi interpreters who served the U.S. government and military forces deployed in the country.

The change, recommended by the Pentagon, eased some of the anger generated in Iraq by Trump’s executive order imposing the ban, which has stoked anxiety and confusion around much of the world since it was issued last week.

The order temporarily blocked all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and suspended visas for applicants from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq. It applied to holders of so-called Special Immigrant Visas issued to the families of Iraqi interpreters who worked for the U.S. during its 2003-11 occupation, often at great personal risk.

In a statement about the change sent to The New York Times, a U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad said, “The U.S. Government has determined that it is in the national interest to allow Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders to continue to travel the United States.”

For the family of a 37-year-old Iraqi who had once worked as an interpreter for U.S. forces, the news was a joyous surprise after nearly a week of upended travel plans.

“I’m shocked all over again,” said the former interpreter, who asked to be identified only by his first name and an initial, Munther A., to protect relatives in Iraq.

The travel ban has thrown the lives of many former interpreters in Iraq into turmoil. Even with valid visas in hand, some were refused entry at U.S. airports and others were removed from planes scheduled to fly to the United States.

Munther A. and his family were removed from a Turkish Airlines flight in Istanbul on Saturday just as they had settled into their seats for a scheduled flight to Kennedy Airport. They were forced to fly back to Baghdad, he said.

Most Iraqis holding the special visas have sold their homes, cars and other possessions in anticipation of starting a new life in the United States. Munther A. said his family had been forced to find emergency housing with friends in Baghdad.

Since 2007, the State Department has issued more than 1,700 Special Immigrant Visas to Iraqi interpreters and their family members.