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'Limited' terrorist connections? New exemptions made in immigration laws

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 6th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The recent move by the Obama administration seems to call to mind the phrase, "a little bit pregnant." The White House has issued new exemptions to parts of an immigration law that forbids those seeking asylum in the U.S. and let refugees who provided "limited material support" to terrorists. The terrorists in question in this case are believed to pose no threat to the U.S.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The new exception is to narrow a ban in the Immigration and Nationality Act which excludes refugees and asylum seekers who had provided limited material support, no matter how minor, to terrorists.

"These exemptions cover five kinds of limited material support that have adversely and unfairly affected refugees and asylum seekers with no tangible connection to terrorism: material support that was insignificant in amount or provided incidentally in the course of everyday social, commercial, family or humanitarian interactions, or under significant pressure," a DHS official explained.

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The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department published the new exemptions this week in the Federal Register.

The department contends that the law change is "commonsense" and that immigration procedures will remain the same in other respects.

"In addition to rigorous background vetting, including checks coordinated across several government agencies, these exemptions will only be applied on a case-by-case basis after careful review and all security checks have cleared," the official added. "This exemption process is vital to advancing the U.S. government's twin goal of protecting the world's most vulnerable persons while ensuring U.S. national security and public safety."

Former State Department official and current director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies Jessica Vaughan questioned the administration's right to unilaterally change the law.

"[T]here is a very legitimate question as to whether the administration actually has the authority to change the law in this way," Vaughan wrote in an email. "It seems to me that they are announcing that they will be disregarding yet another law written by Congress that they don't like and are replacing it with their own guidelines, which in this case appear to be extremely broad and vague, and which are sure to be exploited by those seeking to game our generous refugee admissions program."

While Vaughan admitted that there are a number of immigrants seeking protection who have been denied due to unintentional contact with terrorists, she sees the exemptions as likely another opportunity for people to bypass the system.

"If the recent past is any guide, those evaluating these cases will be ordered to ignore red flags in the applications, especially if the applicant is supported by one of the many advocacy groups that have the ear of senior DHS staff," she explained.

"The administration already approves of the admission of gang members as asylees and criminals in the DACA program and grants of prosecutorial discretion, so I don't expect them to be troubled by the admission of terrorists and garden variety fraudsters in our refugee program.  This is how we end up with families like the Tsarnaev brothers [the Boston marathon bombers], who were originally admitted for political asylum."

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