Other exchange programs are less restrictive, but the Fulbright program's mission is that the grantees return to their home countries and apply the skills they learned in the US. The Institute for International Education (IIE), which is contracted by the Department of State to run the Fulbright program, cannot give advice to Fulbrighters on seeking asylum.
The IIE, however, runs another program called the Scholar Rescue Fund, which is financed by the federal government and some foundations. The Scholar Rescue Fund "has helped resettle 100 academics since 2002, and members of Congress want to set aside millions in Iraq war funding to aid more," but Fulbrighters are not eligible.
The United States has admitted very few refugees from Iraq:
In the last fiscal year, which ended in June, the United States admitted 133 Iraqi refugees. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. has accepted 833 Iraqi refugees, according to the International Rescue Committee. The State Department has promised to admit 3,000 Iraqi refugees by September, but many refugee advocates say the department's lengthy processing time will allow them to admit only 1,500.
It is not (only) the United States that is sending the Iraqi Fulbrighters back:
The Iraqi Minister of Higher Education in 2006 urged U.S. officials to block Fulbright scholars from extending their U.S. student visas. "We discourage them to stay in the U.S." because Fulbright scholars are supposed to "help better Iraq in the future" by returning, said Dr. Hadi al Khalili, cultural attache at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington.
While a growing number of Iraqi students is applying for asylum in the United States, many others want to return, for instance Ali Fadhil, who is finishing a master's degree in journalism at New York University this fall:
Fadhil's father is a Sunni Muslim, his mother, a Shiite. His family still lives in Baghdad, and Fadhil, a married father of two, felt compelled to return to Iraq. This summer, Fadhil is filming an HBO documentary about Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital and another for ESPN about corruption in government-sponsored sports. His wife and children have been granted asylum in the United States, but Fadhil plans to return to Baghdad this winter. "Iraqi Fulbrights should be allowed to stay in the U.S. if they want to, but the goal should be to serve their country," he said.
Read the full article in the Los Angeles Times, free registration required. Thank you, Pat, for recommending this article. Fair Use Webcustomers provides a copy of the article as well.Related post in the Atlantic Review from November 2006: Iraqi Fulbrighters Speak about their Concerns