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Iraqi interpreters afforded new life

6 Feb 2008 | Lance Cpl. Shawn Coolman

The prospect for a better life awaits the men and women serving as interpreters in Iraq.

 Iraqis who serve as interpreters for Coalition Forces have an opportunity to submit their immigration package and possibly become U.S. citizens.

 “This is an incentive for their loyal and faithful service for serving us in our mission,” said Capt. Manuel F. Munoz, 42, the unit linguist manager for 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, who is from New York City.

 To be considered, a minimum of 12 months of service is required in aiding the Coalition Forces.

 An immigration package is then compiled and consists of letters of recommendations, security and background checks and any additional letters which describe the actions of the individual.

 After an interpreter submits a package to the proper chain of command, the package is then sent up to the regimental commander and commanding general of Multi National Force West, said Munoz.

 “The package is then sent to the American Embassy in Rome for special immigration status for the interpreter,” added Munoz.

 Approximately six months after the package is submitted, an interview with the interpreter is arranged to discuss if his/her access to the U.S. will be granted, said “Hector,” an Iraq interpreter who is submitting his package this month.

 Reasons why English speaking Iraqis want to become interpreters are extensive: a better life, a good job and security are just a few.

 “It’s a good job,” said Hector, who has aided the Coalition forces for 12 months. “I studied to be an interpreter; I got a bachelors degree in English Literature from a Baghdad university.

 Although, there are no guarantees that the interpreters’ packages will be approved, the command observes and creates their own recommendations for their package.

 “We look at it like this; would the U.S. benefit by having these people there,” said Munoz. “Some of these interpreters are college educated, and our intent is to pick the very best.”

 When an interpreter arrives in the U.S., they will have to file for a green card to work while their citizenship is finalized.

 “They have to create liaisons when they get there (America); their intent is to hit the ground running,” said Munoz. “Their future is wide opene for them, and they can do whatever they want to in the U.S.”