Friday, January 12, 2007
AP reports that the Bush administration is shifting policy to allow foreigners who have aided armed groups not considered terrorists to seek asylum or resettle in the United States. Hundreds of foreigners already in the country - including some who have been held for months or years in detention - claim to have been forced to help violent groups. Many are fleeing violence from the groups they were forced to assist. Tens of thousands of others, living abroad in refugee camps and elsewhere, also would be affected by the plan to ease restrictions set after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The applicants will have to show that they were forced to provide the support or did so "under duress" to be granted asylum or legal permanent residency. They must pass other intelligence and background checks as well. Human rights, refugee and conservative groups drew media attention to refugee cases affected by the anti-terrorism laws following Sept. 11. The USA Patriot Act and REAL ID law, for example, prohibited asylum for a Sri Lankan fisherman who paid a $500 ransom to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who had kidnapped him. Click here for the full story.
Here is the official "Statement by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff ON THE INTENTION TO use DISCRETIONARY AUTHORITY for MATERIAL SUPPORT to terrorism" on which the AP report presumably was based:
The United States of America has a great legacy as a welcoming nation to legitimate refugee and asylum seekers from around the world. Indeed, America has traditionally welcomed more refugee and asylum seekers than any other nation in the world. The federal government has upheld that tradition while working hard to eliminate the risk of unintentionally admitting a potentially dangerous and fraudulent petitioner in a post-9/11 world. A select group of foreign nationals have been unable to pursue the protections provided by our refugee and asylum laws because they have been uniquely victimized by terrorist groups. This group as a whole does not represent a threat to our homeland security. I, therefore, will exercise my discretionary authority to permit consideration of applications for refugee status, asylum or adjustment of status from some who have provided material support to groups while under duress. I have also decided, in consultation with the Departments of State and Justice, to exercise my discretionary authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act to not apply material support to terrorism provisions to those seeking asylum or adjustment of status that have provided support to eight groups. They are: the Karen National Union and Karen National Liberation Army, Chin National Front and Chin National Army, Chin National League for Democracy, Kayan New Land Party, Arakan Liberation Party, Tibetan Mustangs, Cuban Alzados, and Karenni National Progressive Party. The material support to terrorism exemption will apply to individuals who do not represent a public safety or national security risk to the United States. In addition to exempting from the material support bar eligible individuals in these two categories, the federal government will also seek legislation from Congress to further expand our discretionary exemption authority. We are deeply committed to ensuring that those who deserve humanitarian relief from our immigration system receive it, and that America continues to be a beacon of hope and protection for the persecuted.