FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Patriots, Refugees and Terrorists

by JOANNE MARINER

"Was George Washington a terrorist?" asked Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch’s refugee policy director, only semi-facetiously.

What sparked his question was the exceedingly broad definition of terrorist activity employed in U.S. immigration law. That definition, as expanded in the USA PATRIOT Act and REAL ID Act, applies to "any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed," when that activity involves the use of a weapon or "dangerous device" with the intent "to endanger, directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals or to cause substantial damage to property." The actions of a present-day George Washington would most certainly be covered.

A concrete reason why this broad definition is worrying is that under current U.S. law, people who have engaged in terrorist activities, or who have provided support for terrorist activities–in many cases, even involuntary support–are presumptively barred from resettlement in the United States as refugees. Among the thousands of people negatively affected by this rule in recent years have been Colombians who paid small bribes under duress to paramilitary groups, Burmese who were forcibly conscripted into rebel armies, and Cubans who supported "counter-revolutionary" groups funded by the US government.

The patent unfairness of this broad ban has garnered congressional attention and, as of last year, the problem was supposed to have been remedied. In December, Congress passed legislation that broadened executive authority to grant waivers to deserving refugees who would otherwise be barred under the law’s overly broad "terrorism"-related bans.

Yet the reform does not seem to have worked. In recent months it has become clear that, despite the changes in the terms of the law, the Department of Homeland Security is continuing to bar refugees who should benefit from the expanded waiver authority. These people have fled their countries to escape persecution, and they’re being told that they’re terrorists. What is going on?

Democrats and Mujahideen

Since the December amendments to the immigration laws, a number of refugees have received letters from the Department of Homeland Security informing them that they are being denied permanent residence in the United States because of facts that they stated on their applications for refugee status.

Among those who have received such letters are:

. Iraqi refugees who took part in failed efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the 1990s;

. Afghans who supported the mujahideen groups that fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, including groups that the United States funded;

. Sudanese who belonged to the Democratic Unionist Party, a democratic party opposed to the current Sudanese government and a partner in U.S. negotiations in the region.

In rejecting these people’s applications for permanent residence, DHS is relying on facts that, in many cases, were fully disclosed in their initial refugee applications. Circumstances that, in other words, were deemed acceptable under what were supposed to be tougher rules are now being relied upon to bar people from staying in the United States. In some instances, moreover, the department appears to be characterizing First-Amendment-protected speech as support of terrorism.

Politicians and Bureaucrats

Although the omnibus appropriations bill that was passed by Congress last December was lauded as an important immigration law reform, the officials at the Department of Homeland Security charged with implementing the new rules don’t seem to have gotten the message. Before too many deserving refugees are barred from the United States as terrorists, there needs to be clear and authoritative guidance from on high.

Senior DHS officials need to review the rules being applied in these cases to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is actually implementing the statutory waiver authority that it has been granted. Congress has spoken and the law has changed: "Terrorism"-related immigration bans should not be applied to refugees who do not pose any threat to the United States.

In the longer term, of course, the law’s definition of terrorism should be narrowed to reflect a more meaningful, common-sense understanding of the term. While expanding DHS’s waiver authority was a step forward, it is still absurd that a present-day George Washington would require a waiver to settle in the United States.

JOANNE MARINER is a human rights attorney.


 


 

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail