Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Terrorist" label for asylum seekers in Real ID Act language

Prospective Real ID Act language for "Tier 3" asylum seekers may create hardship

BTC - Immigration relations in conjunction with the Real ID Act have proven beastly in the past. This report reflects on those who may suffer unintended labeling or consequences from Real ID's language.

For Human Rights First


The lives of thousands of refugees in the US are also in limbo. Human rights observers say changes to US immigration law within the PATRIOT Act and REAL ID Act have created an overly broad definition of terrorist - and now thousands of people fleeing repression and war-torn countries are being denied their applications for asylum, permanent residence, and family reunification.

Anwen Hughes is a researcher with Human Rights First.

"These include, for example, people who engaged in ordinary military activity against an opposing army, people who fought for the independence of countries that have now been independent for a long time, like Eritrea or Bangladesh, people who were fighting really awful regimes in their countries, people who had fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, people who had fought to try to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In some cases people were doing these things with the support of the United States or at the behest of the United States.”

Hughes is the author of a new report on this issue. The data she collected shows some 18,000 refugees and asylum seekers affected by the broad definition of terrorism used by US immigration officials. Hughes said the statutory definition of this "Tier III terrorist organization" is any group of two or more people who have used a weapon for any unlawful purpose other than personal monetary gain. Hughes says Congress needs to act on this issue now.

"One of the small fixes would be to eliminate the immigration law concept of a non-designated, or Tier 3 as we’ve been calling it, terrorist organization because that has broadened the scope of this problem more than, basically, anything else. We also believe that the definition of terrorist activity under the immigration law is overwhelmingly broad and needs to be focused more so that it’s actually targeting the activities that the government means to target instead of targeting everybody else as well."

Some 7500 refugees and asylum seekers' have their cases currently on hold with the Department of Homeland Security. For those the US does deny or deport, Hughes says there's another indirect impact -- these people will have a much harder time getting refugee status in another country, after being labeled a "terrorist" by the United States. To read the full Human Rights First report click on the link to open the PDF document at:

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