The International Rescue Committee attempts to ease the transition. Caseworkers such as Zelic pick up new arrivals at the airport and take them to a furnished apartment stocked with a first night of culturally appropriate food. They also help the refugees get Social Security cards, enroll children in school and get immunizations, and offer classes in English, job skills training and career guidance.

Foreigners admitted to the United States as refugees are eligible for a cash stipend during their first eight months, and may avail themselves of other government support.

Zelic describes his Iraqi clients as unusually motivated.

"The kids want to go to school right away," he says. "People want to learn English. They want to work. They really, really don't like to be helped. … They want to be, as they say, 'strong on their legs.'"

Not everyone has found life in the United States difficult. Faisal grew up listening to Voice of America; he has read Time and Newsweek all his life. An engineer who worked as an interpreter and adviser to U.S. commanders and diplomats after the invasion, he arrived in Baltimore with his wife and their two children in May.

"I am fully aware about the life, culture and politics of the United States," says the 62-year-old, who asks that has last name be withheld. "Within two or three hours, I felt at home. I assimilated."

Faisal had requested resettlement near Washington so he could find work with the government or a contractor as a linguist giving cultural and political advice on Iraq. He says he is disappointed by the level of violence that has engulfed his homeland.

"This is not our tradition," he says. "Sunnis and Shiites lived together for centuries. We never thought we could jump on our neighbor. This is not Iraq, and these are not Iraqis.

"How are they going to correct it? I don't know. I'll be glad to help."

He blames much of the violence in Iraq since the invasion on a failure by Americans and Iraqis to understand each other. He wants to pursue graduate study in political science - a step toward involving himself in formulating policy in the Middle East.

For now, he is working as a loan counselor with a local nonprofit organization. His two sons have enrolled in public schools in Northeast Baltimore and joined a Boy Scout troop. His wife, a pediatrician, is working as a medical interpreter at Johns Hopkins while preparing to take the licensing exam.

"We are a typical American family," he says. He blames the high expectations of his countrymen on Saddam Hussein.

"He gave the impression that Iraq was the center of the universe," he says. "So many Iraqis believe this. They have never been abroad before. They have been successful in their worlds. They thought it would be easy."

Shumri, who had visited the United States before settling here, didn't imagine it would be easy to start a new life. But he believes regulations make it unnecessarily difficult.

"I have known of three physicians, one of them a family physician and the other are general practitioners," he says.

"They are not working. There are also engineers. Nobody can find a job. I will not say he will work like he was in Iraq now, but just some job like technician on a computer, for example.

"Even for physicians, if they gave them a position like a physician's assistant or a nurse, it's OK now. We accept it. But even that, they cannot get.

"Do you imagine how difficult it is for the people? Everything is obstacles here."

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