Random Acts of Tyranny

From the Boston Globe:

Passport rule change in US keeps Iraqis out
By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff | February 7, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The US government last month stopped accepting all but the latest version of Iraqi passports, effectively barring hundreds -- potentially thousands -- of Iraqis with valid US visas from entering the United States, including some students at Boston-area universities. [...]

In January, the United States said it would no longer accept most previously issued Iraqi passports because they were too easily forged. Instead, Iraqis entering the United States have to have newly issued, electronically readable passports. But none of Iraq's 50 embassies around the world has the machines required to produce the new passports, Samir Sumaida'ie, Iraq's ambassador to the United States, said in an interview yesterday.

Sumaida'ie said the State Department gave the Iraqi government no time to prepare for the change, announcing on Jan. 8 that, effective immediately, the new passports would be required. He said it would be months before the embassies receive the new machines and training needed to produce the new kind of passport

Now Iraqi citizens are being told that the only way to get a valid passport is to travel to Baghdad. [...]

Omar Dewachi , a doctoral student in anthropology at Harvard, has been trying since October to get back to Cambridge from Montreal, where he has been writing his dissertation. Traveling to and from the United States has never been easy because the US government requires him to reapply for his student visa each time he leaves the country. This week, US officials called Dewachi to say that he had finally gotten the visa, three months after he applied, but that his passport was now invalid. [...]

Since the new policy went into effect, Iraq's embassy in Washington has been flooded with calls from Iraqis around the world, some of whom spent their savings to buy a plane ticket out of the chaotic capital, only to be told to go back home because their visas were issued in passports that are now considered invalid. Even an Iraqi diplomat at the United Nations who had traveled out of the country was turned back, despite her valid diplomatic credentials. [...]

The new State Department policy has affected those trying to travel to the United States not as refugees but as students and business people. From September to December of last year, the State Department issued 1,119 nonimmigrant visas to Iraqis, including business and student visas. Now those who have been issued those visas but have not yet entered the United States must get a valid passport and go through the process again. [...]

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