A spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which conducts the interviews, said teams of refugee officers continue to travel to the Middle East, including to Iraq, to interview applicants on what are known as “circuit rides.” The spokesman would not say when the last circuit ride in Iraq had been conducted, citing security concerns.
A State Department spokeswoman said fewer high-priority Iraqi refugees had been admitted to the United States in part because of tougher background checks ordered by Mr. Trump last year. “The security checks take time, but they are critical,” she said.
Since the 2008 fiscal year, the United States has accepted 47,331 Iraqi refugees under the Direct Access Program, giving priority in the resettlement process to those who were affiliated with the American government during the Iraq war. Of those, 3,249 were accepted during the first three years of the Trump administration, the government data show.
Initially, the Pentagon had requested that 6,000 slots be given to the high-priority Iraqi refugees for the 2020 fiscal year. But others in the Trump administration, wary of a continued threat from the Islamic State, fought to lower the number of Iraqis, viewing them as a security risk.
Over the summer, the Department of Homeland Security deported Jimmy Aldaoud, who was born in Greece to Iraqi parents and had lived in the United States since he was an infant. He had accumulated at least 20 criminal convictions over 20 years and was sent to Iraq, where he had never lived and did not speak the language.
His death in Baghdad — alone, sick and begging to return to his family in Detroit — outraged lawmakers and human rights activists.
A new spate of unrest across Iraq — weeks of violent demonstrations by protesters who demand public services and are challenging government corruption — has made refugee applicants all the more anxious.