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May 13, 2015

Afghan translators struggle to adjust to America

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26-year old Aminullah Sayed spent seven years translating for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan. Now resettled in Virginia after a years-long visa process, he is struggling to find work.

More than 15,000 Afghans have come to the U.S. under a new visa process since 2013.

Once they arrive, they receive an apartment with three months paid rent, food stamps and Medicaid. But many of the apartments are in disrepair, with roaches, leaks, mice and mold present. And some translators are having trouble finding a job, leaving their future past 12 weeks uncertain.

About 70 percent of Afghan interpreters receive help from one of the nine agencies that helps refugees with resettlement. Those agencies provide job training and help refugees sign up for benefits.

But Army Reserve Captain Matt Zeller says the translators who risked their lives for the U.S., need more to help. He founded the organization No One Left Behind to provide assistance to relocated translators.

Zeller’s translator saved him from an ambush in Afghanistan, he said.

“He literally saved my life,” he said. “To me, he’s an American veteran, and we ought to be taking care of folks like we do our other fellow veterans.”

Funding for resettlement programs is limited, and there is no talk of an increase, said Larry Bartlett, director of refugee assistance programs at the State Department.


Warm up questions
  1. What do you know about Afghanistan?
  2. What does an interpreter do in combat situations?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why is it dangerous to be an interpreter for U.S. troops in Afghanistan?
  2. Should the U.S. government offer more assistance to foreign interpreters? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think three months after arriving in a new country is enough time to find a job?
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