January 6, 2017

Didn’t We Solve This One?

We’ve fought two wars since 9/11. We got help from tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans—some were targeted or killed because they helped us. We owe these people. We’ve passed laws that say so. So why has it been so hard for us to get many of them to safety?


Host Ira Glass interviews Congressman Seth Moulton (D., Mass.), who served four tours as a Marine in Iraq. Moulton talks about an Iraqi translator he grew close to, and about a special visa program that allows Iraqi and Afghan translators to come to the U.S. What will happen to the program after Trump takes office? (8 minutes)

Act One

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait. But Not Always.

An Iraqi translator named Sarah has been trying to get to the U.S. for eight years. Finally, this fall, she got a call to come in for an interview for her visa. Now she was one step away from a verdict that could lead to a new life for her and her two sons—or leave them in jeopardy. Producer Nancy Updike tells what happened. (23 minutes)

Act Two

He’s Making a List

Nancy returns with a story that explains the origins of the special visa program for interpreters. A decade ago, a young guy named Kirk Johnson inadvertently became the point person for American policy about the Iraqis and Afghans endangered by their work for us. Kirk reflects on the visa program’s successes and failures—and on how, recently, his advice to translators who want to immigrate to the U.S. has radically changed. (25 minutes)