By KIRK SEMPLE
Not long after the Iraq War began in 2003, Uday al-Ghanimi was accosted by several men outside the American military base where he managed a convenience store. They accused him of abetting the Americans, and one fired a pistol at his head.
Now, after 24 operations, Mr. Ghanimi has a reconstructed face as well as political asylum in the United States. On July 4, his wife and three youngest children joined him in New York after a three-year separation.
But the euphoria of their reunion quickly dissipated as the family began to reckon with the colder realities of their new life. Mr. Ghanimi, 50, who has not been able to work because of lingering pain, is supporting his family on a monthly disability check of $761, food stamps and handouts from friends. They are crammed into one room they rent in a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in a city whose small Iraqi population is scattered. And Mr. Ghanimi’s wife and children do not speak English, deepening their sense of isolation.
A report released in June by the International Rescue Committee, a refugee resettlement organization in New York, said that many Iraqi immigrants have been unable to find jobs, are exhausting government and other benefits and are spiraling toward poverty and homelessness.
“They say, ‘Let’s go back,’ ” Mr. Ghanimi said glumly. “It’s not what they were thinking. I told them, ‘Just be patient.’ ”
For years after the American invasion of Iraq, thousands of Iraqis clamored for admission to the United States and found the door all but closed — until the government reacted to widespread criticism in 2007 by making it easier for more to enter with special visas or as refugees.
But now that Iraqis are arriving in larger numbers, many are discovering that life in the United States is much harder than they expected.