Levin Sends Letter to State Department Urging Plan for Embassy in Iraq to Address Visa Backlog

June 16, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09), along with 11 of his Democratic colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to share with Congress plans to resume full operations at the United States embassy in Baghdad, Iraq and address a mounting backlog of visas for Iraqis—many of whom are attempting to join family in the United States. Rep. Levin represents the highest population of Iraqi Nationals of any congressional district.

“We write to express our concerns regarding the ongoing suspension of consular services at Embassy Baghdad,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are troubled that this suspension, which has been in place since January 1, 2020, has resulted in a tremendous case backlog and, in some instances, has prolonged the separation of American families and forced them to make harrowing choices. The suspension has also prolonged risk for thousands of Iraqis potentially eligible to immigrate to the United States who worked with U.S. diplomats or military personnel and remain subject to consistent threats and violence by extremist groups in Iraq. We urge the Department to urgently finalize and communicate to Congress a plan to work through the visa backlog generated by Embassy Baghdad’s suspension, address remaining physical facilities upgrades to the Embassy compound, and resume consular operations in Baghdad in a manner that ensures Embassy personnel’s safety.

The lawmakers continue: “Iraqis known to have worked for or with the U.S. regularly report intimidation, threats to their lives and that of their families, as well as kidnapping, extortion, and targeted killings. As of this April, over 106,000 Iraqis that qualify for the P2 Direct Access Program (DAP) due to their work for the U.S. remain in processing without final determinations on visa status or resettlement.”

The lawmakers conclude: “We believe the safety of Embassy personnel is of the utmost importance and share your objective to avoid any operational changes that the Department believes would endanger personnel’s health or safety. We do, however, believe the Department should move forward with plans to address any physical facilities upgrades or revisions, and surge capacity to work through the growing visa processing case backlog expeditiously. The absence of a fully staffed and fully operational Embassy Baghdad, including with respect to consular services, has major implications for our constituents, especially for those of us who represent large Iraqi American communities. Constituents with loved ones in Iraq are forced to contemplate remaining separated indefinitely or traveling to Iraq to reunite despite the United States government’s travel advisories in place. No American family should be put in this position.”

The letter is signed by Congressman Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22), Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC-06), Congressman Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06), Congressman Colin Allred (TX-32), Congressman Jason Crow (CO-06) and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14).

Read a full copy of the letter here.