Changes to U.S. immigration law contained within the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act and the 2005 REAL ID Act and intended to protect the United States from terrorism are hurting thousands of legitimate refugees who pose no threat to American security, according to a new Human Rights First report released today. The report, Denial and Delay: The Impact of the Immigration Law’s “Terrorism Bars” on Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the United States, examines this troubling issue and offers a series of recommendations to fix this serious problem.
The immigration law’s definition of ‘terrorist activity’ has been overbroad since 1990. But over the past eight years, new definitions of “terrorist organization” and of “material support” have enlarged the law’s impact, and federal immigration agencies have interpreted all of these definitions in an extremely expansive way. Thousands of men, women, and children have had their applications for asylum, permanent residence, and family reunification denied or delayed as a result. Among these individuals are peaceful advocates for democracy in countries ranging from Sudan to Zimbabwe, children who were abducted by rebel armies, doctors who provided medical care to anyone who fought with non-state forces, and those who fought against the armies of repressive governments in their home countries — even with the support of the U.S. government.
“These were not the people Congress intended to target,” said Human Rights First’s Anwen Hughes, author of the report. “In fact many of these refugees supported the same causes the United States supports, or were victimized by forces the U.S. government also opposes. But attempts to solve this problem through piecemeal “waiver” announcements are not working.”
Read the rest of this entry »