Emails from a Dead Man

  • July 13, 2013

As a complement to its hour-long investigation into the shabby state of refugee processing for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis, This American Life created an interactive website out of a number of emails between “Omar,” the State Department, and the International Organization for Migration.  Omar (whose name has been changed for security reasons) was a forklift operator for the U.S. military, unpacking food and supplies for our troops.  Six months before the war ended, he submitted an application for refuge in the U.S., including several letters of commendation from American officers.  The tragic outcome of his desperate appeal for help formed the second half of the show.

I included his story and the emails in the book because I want readers to have a sense of just how hopeless and confusing it feels for a refugee to petition our government.  Most of Omar’s emails were met with an auto-reply, or else poorly-phrased requests for the very information that he just submitted.  Less than two weeks after the episode aired, the List Project’s partnering attorneys at Mayer Brown LLP received notification that Omar’s widow and young son were finally cleared for travel.  The List Project’s lawyers are still working on getting the rest of his family out (along with hundreds of other families on the list).


Take a look at This American Life’s “Emails from a Dead Man.”