Video: More Iraqi refugees in the U.S.

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/15/2007 7:37:15 PM ET 2007-02-16T00:37:15

2003 was a year A.J. will never forget. He was honored to work as an interpreter for American troops.

“I was very proud to wear the uniform and to put the American flag on my shoulder,” he says.

But it all ended for him less than two years later, when he was wounded on patrol with his American buddies.

“On that day we got attacked by mortars and RPGs,” recalls A.J.

And while his wounds have healed, he's in more danger than ever. Militant Shiites and Sunnis brand him as a collaborator. 

“Now I can't go back to my house,” he says. “I'm living in a totally different area and I'm facing a very hard time.”

A.J.’s hope? America. And while he has glowing support from American commanders, he's been turned down twice for a visa, with no explanation. 

And he's not alone. Millions are signing up for passports to escape the chaos. More than 2 million Iraqis have fled their homes — that's about 10 percent of the population now living outside Iraq's border. And the U.S. has accepted only a handful of them.

Of the 50,000 refugees allowed into the U.S. last year, only 202 were Iraqis.

On Wednesday, the State Department announced it will admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees this year, but no priority for Iraqis like A.J., who worked for the U.S.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., says that's not fair.

"For those individuals, in particular, we have a very special responsibility and we have to do everything to protect them,” he says.

In tiny Bradford, Ark., former Staff Sgt. Paul Bunn feels a special loyalty to his former translator, A.J.

“It's a life-or-death situation for him,” says Bunn. “If he stays there, eventually, he's going to die.”

For now, A.J. and his family are compelled — like millions of Iraqis — to wait.

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