Couple Brought Together in Iraq Fear Travel Ban Will Keep Families Apart - NBC 7 San Diego

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Couple Brought Together in Iraq Fear Travel Ban Will Keep Families Apart

Although some people in the community where she lives in El Cajon support the proposed travel ban, Matti does not.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A couple in El Cajon met while fighting the war in Iraq. Amanda Matti served as a Navy Intelligence analyst and her husband was an Iraqi interpreter. Now they're keeping a close watch on the President's travel ban. NBC 7's Bridget Naso reports. (Published Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017)

    A couple in El Cajon who met and fell in love while fighting the war in Iraq now fear that the President's travel ban may keep their families apart.

    Amanda Matti was working as a U.S. Navy Intelligence Analyst and her husband was working as an Iraqi Interpreter, when the two met in Baghdad in 2005. Now her husband’s family fears the proposed travel ban will keep them separated from loved ones still in the Middle East.

    “It was love at first sight for both of us, it was pretty amazing,” Amanda Matti told NBC 7.

    Matti had been in Iraq for only three days and needed an interpreter to help with her work. She said she knew things would never be the same after meeting this man.

    For months the pair worked side by side and spent several weeks on the front lines in Iraq near the Syrian border.

    His work was dangerous, serving alongside members of the Marine Corps and Army in battles, including the first Battle of Fallujah and in Ramadi, said Matti. He was injured in combat several times, and there were many close calls.

    "He was shot in the chest, luckily he was wearing body armor," said Matti.

    Interpreters in Iraq also lived under the constant threat of being captured by insurgents.

    "They were being systematically targeted -- they were being kidnapped and executed and dumped in street alleys. They were considered traitors to their country," said Matti.

    The people of Iraq lived in chaotic fear at that time.

    "They've had to sleep you know with AK-47s, and they've watched as their neighbors -- for years and years were good friends with -- suddenly turn on them," Matti told NBC 7.

    The U.S. military was quick to question the couple's relationship, which was confusing for Matti because some of the men she worked with in the Navy had relationships with foreign women without any scrutiny.

    Their affair resulted in a nine month investigation that kept the pair separated. At one point investigators even looked into whether Matti could be a possible spy, she said.

    Matti eventually left the Navy. She said it was all because she fell in love with an Iraqi man.

    She returned to the U.S., eventually followed by the Iraqi translator who is now her husband. It took two years of undergoing an extensive vetting process before her husband was able to immigrate to the U.S., where the two married and have two daughters together.

    Some of his close family members were also eventually able to immigrate as refugees, but not all.

    "A lot of these refugees are simply trying to find a safe haven so they don't have to worry about their children being annihilated by bombs," Matti told NBC 7.

    Matti understands the fear of terrorism, but says the country needs to strike a delicate balance between security and liberty.

    "The Iraqis and the service members who have served in Iraq have come face-to-face with it," said Matti of terrorism.

    Although some people in the community where she lives in El Cajon support the proposed travel ban, she does not.

    "It's giving people a false sense of security," said Matti.

    "We keep limiting our own liberty here to achieve a sense of safety and there's got to be a balance."

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