Watch CBS News

Military Veterans Come Together For Iraqi & Afghan Refugees In Colorado

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) - Some military veterans are coming together for Iraqis and Afghans who put their lives on the line to help as translators in the Middle East.

TUITION FOR REFUGEES 5PKG.transfer_frame_162
(credit: Maytham Alshadood.

The vets are fighting for a bill at the state capitol that would grant in-state college tuition to refugees, including foreign nationals from Afghanistan and Iraq who helped interpret for U.S. soldiers and diplomats.

Maytham Alshadood is one of those translators. In 2005, he risked his life and the lives of his family members to be an interpreter for the U.S. military in Baghdad.

TUITION FOR REFUGEES 5PKG.transfer_frame_612
CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Maytham Alshadood. (credit: CBS)

"It is really dangerous for us to do that work because we were targeted by insurgents and we were labeled as traitors," he said.

In return for his service, he received a special immigrant visa that brought him to Colorado, where veterans receive in-state college tuition. But Alshadood - who fought side-by-side with American soldiers for nearly three years - was told he wasn't a veteran nor a Coloradan.

"I fought for this country and, because of that work, my life was in danger, and I had to uproot from my home country and to a place I would call home and when I go to apply for school, they tell me I'm an out-of-state student," he said.

TUITION FOR REFUGEES 5PKG.transfer_frame_312
Travis Weiner and Maytham Alshadood (credit: CBS)

Army veteran Travis Weiner says Alshadood is as much a veteran as he is.

"These folks sweat, bled and died along side us, in many cases saving lives," he said.

Weiner, a member of Vets for American Ideals, joined other veterans at the capitol to testify in favor of a bill that would make refugees like Alshadood eligible for in-state tuition without waiting a year to establish residency.

TUITION FOR REFUGEES 5PKG.transfer_frame_1522
Travis Weiner (credit: CBS)

"As veterans, members of the military, we never leave anyone behind - it's kind of our creed - and these folks are being left behind," said Weiner.

Bill sponsor, Sen. Steve Fenberg, says his bill is about human rights, noting that all of the refugees have been extensively vetted and many are qualified for jobs here, but are lacking a degree.

"I think it's important that we give them the opportunity to pursue a degree just like every other Coloradan because that's what they are, legally settled in the state of Colorado by the federal government," Fenberg said.

TUITION FOR REFUGEES 5PKG.transfer_frame_2536
Sen. Steve Fenberg (credit: CBS)

Alshadood is a U.S. citizen today and a transplant nurse at University Hospital.

"We always work against resistance, but with persistence we'll get somewhere," he said.

The bill passed its first committee unanimously Monday night.

About 17,000 refugees have been placed in Colorado over the last 12 years.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.