WASHINGTON — So far this year, the United States has admitted just 70 Iraqi refugees, and most of those had fled long before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to U.S. officials and refugee groups.
Under sustained criticism for not doing more to help with the refugee crisis, the Bush administration has said it will open the door a little wider. But even that will do little for the estimated 93,000 Iraqis who now work for U.S. government entities.
State Department and Homeland Security officials say they expect to review the applications of as many as 7,000 Iraq refugees in fiscal year 2007, which ends Oct. 1. Hundreds have been interviewed, and the first group of 60 is expected to arrive in the United States later this month.
The program has been delayed by disagreements between State and the Department of Homeland Security, which didn't put new screening procedures into place until late May, and immigration experts doubt that the administration will meet its targets.
"It's not going to happen," said Megan Fowler of Refugees International. "The State Department is continually putting out unrealistic numbers."
This month, President Bush signed legislation expanding the number of Afghan and Iraqi translators allowed into the U.S. from 50 to 500 through 2008, giving them special immigrant status.
Whether that goal will be met also is open to question.
The U.S. first set up a special immigrant status for translators in the Defense Department's spending-authorization bill last year. That law allowed 50 to be admitted. But the U.S. has allowed in only 18 since 2003, said Laura Capps, a spokeswoman for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who co-sponsored the bill.