"After three months insurgents came to my neighbors and they were asking about me and my location," he remembers. Rami then decided it was time to leave Iraq. "You know, I had a family member, was working with me, as a translator, in the same base. And he got killed," he explains.
The family member had quit more than two years earlier, before being targeted by the killers. After that, Rami says he had to flee to Syria.
Flee, like so many others. At the Syrian borders, one can see caravans of cars leaving Iraq and heading towards Syria; no one is going the other way. The border post has been mobbed. There were about 1,000 people on the day 60 Minutes stopped by. It's a refugee crisis that is largely unnoticed by the world.
The exodus of Iraqi refugees is one of the most under-reported stories of the war. The United Nations estimates that as many as two million Iraqis have left the country already and at various times over the winter they were coming across the border at a rate of 3,000 a day.
Syria has an open door policy and many neighborhoods in Damascus are becoming Iraqi. But there's a catch: the Iraqis are not supposed to work here and many are going broke. The U.S. is spending about $40 million this year to help the refugees in the region but it doesn't go far. Next door in Jordan, most Iraqi men are being turned away and some are being deported.
One man 60 Minutes met had overstayed his visa and had nowhere else to go. He told Pelley that if he was found out he'd be returned to Iraq, where he'd get killed.
Killed, because he used to work for the Mississippi National Guard; his leg was shattered in an attack on that unit two years ago.
Where is he going to go?
"I don't know. We went to the U.S. Embassy. And we asked them for our help," he says.
He says he explained to them he had worked for the National Guard unit and was wounded in battle. "The first time, yes, the first time we called them we told them we are translators. We're working with the U.S. Army in Iraq and we got injured. And we can't go back to our country. She said, 'Okay, you know the danger when you work with the U.S. Army. And ask the Army to give you a visa.' That's it," he remembers.
How many Iraqis, like this translator, worked for America? No one is certain, but by our tally it's at least 100,000. Add their families and you're well over a half a million people at risk. How many of them have been allowed to immigrate to the United States? About 100.
That is slowly changing. This January, the new Congress held hearings on the refugees. A few weeks later, the State Department said it would consider 7,000 applications. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey is in charge of that program.
"I want to make it clear that this is a first of what will be an ongoing process. We're not -- we have no cap. We have no quota. And we have no limits on the compassion of the United States to accept refugees," Sauerbrey tells Pelley.
"You know, even if the number ultimately becomes larger than 7,000 in a year, these are tiny numbers compared to the need. I mean, at the present time you have two million already displaced. 7,000 doesn't sound like much," Pelley remarks.
"Let's put it in perspective," Sauerbrey replies. "Most of these people don't want to be resettled in a third country. Most of these people really want to go home."
"The people we've talked to want to come to the United States because they feel like they're marked for death back home," Pelley says.
"Certainly there are some that are very vulnerable. And that's what the resettlement program is about," she replies.
Asked how many Iraqi refugees we can expect to come into this country annually from this point forward, Sauerbrey says, "Our understanding this year is that we will be probably actually receiving into the country perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three thousand."