Promising Signs for on Iraqi Refugees

George Packer writes in praise of Lori Scialabba, associate director of the Refugee, Asylum, and Operations Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for her tireless advocacy on behalf of Iraq asylum seekers.

Scialabba was hearing from Iraqis on a regular basis. And this is why she deserves some sort of medal: far from discouraging the correspondence, she always wrote back quickly. My friend’s first e-mail has a time stamp of 2:26 P.M. Scialabba’s reply came at 4:52 P.M. on the same day. He thanked her at 8:21 P.M., to which she replied at 8:37 A.M. the next morning. One of her e-mails, to an anxious Iraqi-refugee applicant who was languishing in Jordan, was sent at 10:06 P.M. on a Friday evening. To Iraqis who had grown accustomed to a sluggish and indifferent American bureaucracy after growing up with a sinister Iraqi one, Scialabba’s responsiveness must have seemed angelic. And her alacrity was matched by her efficacy: she always got the case moving, and she persisted until it was resolved.

It’s worth noting, though, that there is change coming from the top as well. In his big Iraq speech at Camp Lejeune last week President Obama clearly stated his administration’s attentiveness to the needs of Iraq’s displaced.

Diplomacy and assistance is also required to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. These men, women and children are a living consequence of this war and a challenge to stability in the region, and they must become a part of Iraq’s reconciliation and recovery. America has a strategic interest – and a moral responsibility – to act. In the coming months, my administration will provide more assistance and take steps to increase international support for countries already hosting refugees; we’ll cooperate with others to resettle Iraqis facing great personal risk; and we will work with the Iraqi government over time to resettle refugees and displaced Iraqis within Iraq – because there are few more powerful indicators of lasting peace than displaced citizens returning home.

That’s via Refugees International, which is circulating a petition on behalf of Iraqi refugees.