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New security measures blocking Iraqi asylum-seekers

Increased fears about Iraqi immigrants' potential ties to al-Qaeda have slowed the flow of new arrivals from Middle Eastern nations, according to a report from USA Today. Additionally, a federal resettlement program for Iraqi refugees seeking asylum has been significantly restricted.

While more than 36,000 Iraqi refugees came to the United States between 2008 and 2010, only about 9,000 resettled in the country during 2011, the State Department reported. This has even limited the ability of military translators and embassy workers to find a safe place to live in the United States.

The restrictions come in the wake of recent arrests of two Iraqi asylum-seekers in Kentucky who face charges of conspiring with al-Qaeda by sending the organization money and weapons. The two men are also accused of contributing to the distribution of roadside bombs in Iraq before being resettled in America.

The new Homeland Security restrictions have resulted in the re-evaluation of more than 57,000 refugees in America, according to agency administrators. Background checks now analyze security, forensic and intelligence information that may relate to the refugees' history in their country of origin.

The increased security measures have slowed the ability of Iraqi refugees to complete their background check requirements; only about 600 people have received full certification and clearance, while another 29,000 await further investigation.

Advocates argue that these roadblocks are jeopardizing the safety and welfare of workers who put themselves in danger as interpreters and advisers to United States leaders during wartime.

Reportedly, the Obama administration is currently working to find a solution to the problem that compromises neither national security nor the safety of Iraqis.

Source: USA Today, "Fear of al-Qaeda sabotages Iraqis' chances of coming to USA," Aamer Madhani, Jan. 6, 2012

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