John Taylor returned home from a year-long military deployment to Iraq with the Galva Illinois Army National Guard in 2005. Despite very hazardous assignments, such as patrolling Route Irish, which has been called the “world’s most dangerous road”, all 122 men who deployed with Taylor’s unit returned home; however, many of the interpreters who served alongside these men who were not so fortunate.
In 2015, Taylor received a desperate message from an Iraqi interpreter with the codename of “Jaguar” whom he had not communicated with since leaving Iraq over 10 years ago. “Due to the critical role interpreters played to our mission, being the only means for communicating with locals, they were very high value targets for the insurgents. That coupled with the fact that the interpreters where not allowed to stay with U.S. troops after their shift had ended made it very easy for them to be seen coming and going from the bases. It was extremely common for interpreters and their friends and family members to be hunted down and murdered or kidnapped by insurgents due to their association with the U.S. military. They had a very short life expectancy so I was very surprised to hear from Jaguar.”, said Taylor.
In one of the earliest of several messages, “Jaguar” informed Taylor he had applied for refugee status with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2011, but the process is apparently stalled. A second interview with IOM has been scheduled and then cancelled a number of times. He and his family, a wife and five children, had been living in hiding and constant danger for over 10 years at this point.
Immediately upon hearing this Taylor began contacting senators, state representatives, and anyone who would listen to his story in an attempt to bring Jaguar and his family to safety in the United States; however, it quickly became apparent this would not an easy task, impossible perhaps. Countless congressional inquiries into Jaguar’s case have come back with a response that his case is “pending” and give no indication of if or when he might be granted a second interview. Taylor went on to say, “To me, this man is a hero. He was by our side through firefights, car bombs, ambushes, you name it. He participated on countless direct action engagements with the U.S. Army, Marines, and Special Forces and his actions saved the lives of many Americans. Without the interpreters myself and many of the men I served with would likely have not come home. Here we are, now 15 years later, and this man and his family are living in fear and hiding.”
As time went on, Taylor learned Jaguar was one of many interpreters who had been left behind by the military; estimates are 100,000 Iraqi and 20,000 Afghani interpreters have been left behind and the current administration has virtually closed the door on interpreters who worked for the American military. In 2018, only two Special Immigration Visas were issued to former Iraqi interpreters, despite a massive backlog of applicants.
Upon learning this Taylor launched a campaign to raise awareness of the situation in hopes of getting legislation passed to protect interpreters who aid and have aided U.S. military forces. He has teamed up with Gary Metivier, a three-time Emmy winner, to produce a video which tells the story of two interpreters Taylor worked with. He will also be speaking to groups about what can be done. “Everyone I talk to agrees it is unacceptable to leave these interpreters behind. I urge anyone who feels this way to contact their state representatives and demand answers,” says Taylor.
Documentary by Gary Joseph Metivier with Metivier Media.
Watch the full documentary by clicking here.