Congress Must Fix “Material Support” Laws, Stop Treating Victims Like Terrorists

On Friday, April 27, 2007, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff signed a statement authorizing USCIS to exempt from the “material support” bar those who provided material support under duress to designated terrorist organizations if the individuals are determined to meet certain criteria.


“We welcome this step forward, and the administration’s recognition that refugees who are victimized by violent groups should not be barred from asylum in this country,” said Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First’s refugee protection program. The bar and its interpretation by U.S. immigration authorities have led U.S. adjudicators to deny asylum to refugees who have been victims of repressive regimes or violent groups, or to place their asylum requests on hold for years.

“This step though is only a part of the solution to this problem,” said Jay Staunton, an attorney with Human Rights First. “Congress needs to fix the underlying statute so that refugees who have stood up to repressive regimes or been victimized by violent groups can be assured that they will receive this country’s protection.” Refugees like the Montagnards, who fought along side U.S. troops in Vietnam, have been deprived of refugee status in this country, while refugees who have been forced to pay ransoms or provide medical aid have been labeled as “supporters” of “terrorist organizations” by U.S. immigration authorities.


On January 11, 2007, the administration announced its plan for addressing this problem. The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice have not yet implemented a process for asylum seekers and others to seek these “waivers.” None of the asylum seekers profiled in Human Rights First’s report Abandoning the Persecuted have yet to be granted asylum. In fact, the fisherman who was kidnapped by the LTTE in Sri Lanka has now been detained in a U.S. immigration jail for over two years, and the cases of several Burmese Chin asylum seekers – who had appealed their asylum denials to a U.S. federal court – have been “certified” to the Attorney General by U.S. immigration authorities.

To read Secretary Chertoff’s April 27 Statement click here.

To read Human Rights First’s report Abandoning the Persecuted click here.


Published on May 2, 2007


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