A Dallas attorney dedicated to helping the five Iraqi translators who helped him fulfill his mission in Iraq welcomed the last one to the U.S. on Friday.
Speaking to WFAA, attorney and veteran Allen Vaught explained why he strove for 15 years to bring one particular man to Texas.
The turning point in the Iraq war was in 2011. Finally, the operation in the region appeared to be over, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers withdrew from the area. But Army Captain Vaught was not done with his mission. In truth, it had only just begun.
Vaught was among the first to invade Iraq in 2003. As Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship fell, Vaught was responsible for helping establish local, U.S.-supported governments. Iraqi translators were essential for the task, but their service to Americans caused many to be captured or tortured, and some lost their lives.
When he left Iraq, Vaught could not forget the people who helped him fulfill his mission or the danger they faced. He worked relentlessly with other immigration lawyers for 15 years to bring his Iraqi translators to the United States.
Vaught fought to help two of his five translators come to the U.S. in 2007 and 2008. They were granted access through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and are both U.S. citizens now.
Two others who translated for Vaught were executed before they could escape; one was burned alive.
The soldier-turned-Dallas attorney admitted to WFAA that he “always felt guilty about what happened to the translators” because he was the one who hired them. “They had prices put on their heads, and Sam is the last one alive.”
“Sam” has spent the last decade avoiding militias, terrorist groups, and others motivated to kill anyone who helped Americans in the Middle East. Vaught witnessed Sam’s bravery firsthand.
Once, when he and other soldiers were ambushed in 2004, Vaught’s back was broken in five places.
“Sam drove miles through hostile territory to check on Vaught” before being released on a medical discharge. Such dedication dumbfounded the Army captain.
“He didn’t have to do that,” Vaught said.
Once the war ended in 2011, Sam applied to enter the U.S. as a refugee. Still, executive orders from President Trump derailed the refugee process, banning travel to the U.S. from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. On Sam’s behalf, Vaught filed suit and won, but two weeks before Sam could fly out of Iraq, COVID-19 arrested international travel.
After being stranded in Egypt for two years, Sam flew to the U.S. and briefly stayed in California for a few weeks until he could come to Texas. Last Friday, the two men were finally reunited at Dallas Love Field.
“We haven’t seen each other since he came to check on me in 2004,” said Vaught, visibly relieved to lay eyes on his old interpreter.
Vaught will sponsor Sam as he settles in America.
Their years-long battle against bureaucracy is finally over, and Sam’s new life has just begun.
Those interested in helping Sam transition to living in the United States can visit the GoFundMe organized by Allen Vaught.