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April 16, 2007

Refugee Resettlement I

REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT I

In the four years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, as many as 2 million Iraqis have fled the country. Many are afraid to return home because they are known to have worked with Americans as translators or guides.

Richard Holbrooke, who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, calls it "crazy" that there is no plan underway to help those Iraqis get re-settled. Holbrooke says ''Even Iraqis who were given security clearances to work with U.S. troops in combat positions in Iraq …are waiting years and years to get approval.''

The government is still discussing how to go about helping Iraqi refugees, but it turns out this has been done before, and with great success. It happened in the last months of the war in Vietnam.     

In 1975 Julia Taft worked in Gerald Ford's White House. She was only 32 years old when she was put in charge of a mission to bring over 130,000 Vietnamese refugees to America in a matter of months.  

It was very exciting, the discussions about who should we evacuate, how do we get our people out, how do we take care of classified documents, what planes are in the region, who could go and pick up people …
- Julia Taft

Dick Gordon talks to Julia about how she accomplished this large task, how the different governmental agencies came together, and what insights she has about the situation the U.S. currently faces with Iraq.

We'll also meet two of Julia's friends, mother and daughter Ninh Le and Thao Do. Ninh was re-settled under Julia's program, along with her husband and 8 children. The Le family and Julia Taft have since become close friends.

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