Chicago Tribune | Stories highlight need for Special Immigrant Visas

Wasim, 27, said he endured rocket attacks that blew out the windows of the tower at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan where he worked as an interpreter and air traffic controller before being resettled in DuPage County by the World Relief organization.

“I’m very grateful for World Relief. They gave me shoes, so to speak, so I can now walk,” said Wasim, who like the other three who told stories of risking their lives for the American military, wanted their surnames omitted because of safety concerns.

The event, held on Tuesday at a tea shop in Wheaton, drew about 75 people and focused on the Special Immigrant Visa program, which lawmakers are being urged to support because of the help applicants provided U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The DuPage-Aurora office of World Relief has been helping immigrants and refugees in the area since 1979.

“We’re working with vulnerable people who were made vulnerable because of all sorts of different circumstances like war, natural disaster and poverty,” executive director Susan Sperry said. “In the U.S., we partner closely with local churches and primarily work with refugee resettlement and immigrant health services.”

In addition to 80 staff members, the DuPage-Aurora branch of World Relief has more than 1,000 volunteers, she said.

Audience members were given pre-stamped postcards addressed to Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin that asked them for continued support of the Special Immigrant Visa program. Officials project that the number of allotted SIVs will run out in coming months.

“It is very hard for a woman to work in Afghanistan,” said Muzhgan, 25, a former interpreter who now lives in Aurora. “It’s especially difficult for a lady to be on a military base working with the men. It’s different in a Muslim country because a woman leaving her house for any reason must be escorted by a man from your immediate family or your mother, whether you’re going to visit someone or going to school.”

She explained that her family would have been shamed or persecuted by the Afghan government if her work with Americans had been discovered.


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