By Debbie Gregory.
For Iraqis and Afghans, working with the U.S. military in the Middle East carried great risks. Haeder Al Anbki is one of more than 23,000 Iraqi and Afghan people who worked with American Forces, and then immigrated to the United States. Their work as translators or other supporting roles earned them special immigrant visas for themselves and their families, and for many, that was the path to U.S. citizenship.
During his service with the troops, Al Anbki was stabbed by an insurgent and shot in the leg. He lost a toe on his left foot from shrapnel. His brother, also a translator for U.S. troops, was killed.
Al Anbki fully expected that to happen last year during a naturalization ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia. He and 19 other immigrant recruits were all set to take their oaths when for some reason, the Iraqi native was unceremoniously pulled out of the proceedings. No explanation was given other than “there was a problem in the system.”
Now, more than a year later, Al Anbki, who works as a security guard at Orlando International Airport, is once again ready to take the oath of citizenship at the end of July in Orlando. He credits the reversal to the media attention given his plight.
“The articles and it’s out in the public … made the changes and it’s opening many eyes to see the truth,” Al Anbki said in text message from Camp Blanding in Jacksonville, where he was training with his Florida National Guard unit.
The 36-year-old had also filed a lawsuit stating that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was obligated to complete his citizenship application. He also alleges that he was subject to the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program, which some say targets applicants from majority-Muslim countries.