Pentagon to Recommend Iraqi Partners for Exemptions From Travel Ban

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, left, commander, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve, visiting with an Iraqi soldier / AP

The Pentagon is compiling names of Iraqis who have helped the U.S. military to possibly be exempted from President Donald Trump's immigration ban unveiled last week.

A spokesman for the Pentagon said Monday that the White House had asked for the list of Iraqis recommended for exemption from the travel ban, Politico reported. The list may include Iraqi translators, drivers, and other individuals who have actively helped the U.S. military.

"We have been provided the opportunity by the White House to submit names," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said. "We are ensuring that those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us, that those names are known for whatever process there is going forward."

The executive order bars immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States for at least 90 days. It has been scrutinized by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, with several critics calling for individuals who have aided the U.S. military to be exempted from the travel ban.

"Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation," Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said in a statement over the weekend. "It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted."

"We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home. We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help. And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children," the senators said.

Trump signed the executive order at the Pentagon on Friday, following the ceremonial swearing-in of Defense Secretary James Mattis. The president said that it would put in place "new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorist out of the United States of America."