From Baghdad to San Jose

From Baghdad to San Jose

A former Iraqi interpreter for the U.S. military and his family relocate to the safe haven of Silicon Valley, where they struggle to make ends meet. (SJMN)

An estimated 20,000 Iraqis have worked for United States forces as interpreters since the war began in 2003. For Marine Reserve Capt. John Jacobs from Sunnyvale, CA, interpreters are like any other soldier on the battlefield – you owe them everything.

Haitham Jasim worked with U.S. troops for nearly two years before fellow Iraqis put a $20,000 bounty on his head. He was desperate to keep his family safe and turned to Jacobs, whom he worked with and befriended in Iraq, for help. Jacobs and his wife, who also served in Iraq, believed it was their moral imperative to help out. They started an organization and raised thousands of dollars to provide the family a haven in San Jose.

This San Jose Mercury News video tells the story of Jasim, a former Iraqi interpreter, and his family who came to the U.S. on a Special Immigrant Visa in 2008. The story follows the family for nearly a year as they celebrate their arrival and newfound safety to the struggles they encounter looking for work.

Jasim was an electrical engineer in Iraq. After nine months of job hunting he found temporary work at $15 an hour as a caseworker and translator at a San Jose non-profit. “In Iraq, I could get a job but had no safety for my family,” he says. “Here, I had safety but no job. America is beautiful, nice and clean. But if you don’t have a job, there isn’t much hope for the future.

Jasim’s wife Jamila was a human rights attorney in Iraq and misses her family and job back home. Both hope to someday return to a peaceful Iraq.

CHANNEL: San Jose Mercury News

Length: 13:07

By Pauline Lubens