Bill on special visas for Iraqis heads to Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure to provide special visas for Iraqis who risked their lives to help the United States is heading to President Barack Obama.

By voice vote Thursday, the Senate passed the measure. The House had approved it late Thursday.

The special visa has allowed more than 12,000 Iraqi contractors, interpreters and others who aided U.S. efforts, and their family members, to move to the United States since 2007. It expired earlier this week, with an estimated 2,000 applications still pending.

The program was created during the worst years of the Iraq war, with Iraqis who helped U.S. forces facing targeted killings, death threats and other forms of harassment. The goal was to resettle them in the United States faster than the often protracted general refugee process might allow.

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