Forgotten Afghani translators

While in India on my study abroad trip, I fell into a friend group made up of international Afghani students who had come to India on student visas to get Master’s degrees. The men got degrees in Government, Engineering and Economics. Some of the men confided that it was safer to study in India so that they could get away from Al Qaida, ISIS and the Taliban.

At one point, My friends Mohammed, Naser and I were on a quiet wooded hillside overlooking Pune, the city we were living in, all far from home. Naser got a phone call and burst into tears. He showed the phone to Mohammed and his face became flush. I found out while hurriedly packing up our bags that Naser’s father, an officer in the Afghani Military, had been killed by ISIS. I drove Naser’s scooter while he sat on the back of Mohammed’s motorcycle back to Naser and his brother’s house. Naser didn’t think he should be driving. I had never met anyone who had family killed by ISIS. I have known people killed by terrorism in Israel and was in a nearby suburb during the Boston Marathon Bombing. None of my previous personal experience with terrorism had prepped me for this kind of horror. We sat quietly in their home until Mohammed drove me home.

Days before, at a birthday party in another friends apartment, Naser had told me about his time working as a translator for the US military. He worked closely with American soldiers and put his life on the line with them.

Despite a program for visas for people like Naser who work for our military despite major personal risk, bureaucratic issues and a gridlocked congress prevented most of them to be issued.

The NPR radio show This American Life did a story about the same visa program for Iraqi translators called “Didn’t we Solve This One?” The radio program outlines the ways in which we failed these men and women far better then I could, but for those of you who don’t listen to podcasts, despite risking their lives with our soldiers and being personally threatened, these translators worked diligently helping American soldiers. They deserve visas. We owe them.

Naser’s prospects are honestly grim. Trump’s immigration cutbacks spell an ugly picture for an old visa program up for renewal that brings young Muslims from one of the “countries associated with terror.” Last week I wrote about my grandmother and I was thinking about those who are leaving the American experiment behind and when they sum things up, the outlook, at this moment is dark. This week I wrote about Naser because I don’t think we consider the way in which the decline of the American Empire is not just a national embarrassment, but also an international crisis of stability. Those at risk, especially those whom our nation has put on the margins, are being crushed by the weight of our inept regime. There is a reason Trump is protested globally and there is a reason countries look to China to lead the world. Trump burns our already morally bankrupt “city on a hill” for his board room and gaggle of ideologues, blow hards and crooks.

We don’t need less immigration, we need more. We need men and women from around the world, who dream of a better future, to come here and start families and businesses. By providing everyone education and realizing cosmopolitan societies are the future. The US can move toward the American dream Obama used to make me cry over. That is the United States I want.