First Big Wave of Iraqi Refugees Heads for the US

June 26, 2007

Author: Dan Murphy

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Amman, Jordan - Adnan Abbas – with his poor English, four young daughters, and little money to speak of – shrugs when told that making a new life in the US will be hard.

"I know that a new country, new language, is difficult and that America isn't going to say, 'Welcome, Adnan, here's a million dollars,' " he says. "But life in Iraq? That's impossible. We're one of the luckiest families in the world."

On Tuesday, the Abbas family will take their five small suitcases, close the door on the small flat they've rented for the past year in Amman, Jordan, and start a journey that will eventually taken them to Lansing, Mich. They are in the vanguard of what's likely to become – if the history of American wars is anything to go by – the latest wave of immigrants to have an impact on the demographics of the US.

In February, the US agreed to accept 7,000 Iraqi refugees this year, a large jump over the fewer than 700 Iraqis accepted by the US in the first three years of the war but a drop in the ocean when measured against the estimated 2 million Iraqis who have fled the country since the war began. About 2,000 of those Iraqis coming this year, say refugee officials, will start their lives anew in Michigan.

For now, the Abbases are among the exceptions that prove the rule. Adnan, a driver in Baghdad for this paper, was witness to the murder of Allan Enwiyah and the kidnapping of reporter Jill Carroll in January 2006.

The family fled the country because of fear of reprisals from the Iraqi jihadis who had murdered Mr. Enwiyah, and because Abbas had been publicly identified as connected to an American organization, something that has proven a death sentence for hundreds of Iraqis in the past four years.