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U.S. eases restrictions for immigrants who gave “limited material support” to terror organizations

The Obama Administration has relaxed its rules for immigrants who have given “limited material support” to groups classified as terrorist organizations; such asylum seekers have previously been barred from entering the U.S.

In a notice in the Federal Register, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State announced that certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act bar some asylum seekers “who do not pose a national security or public safety risk from admission to the United States and from obtaining immigration benefits or other status.” Certain restrictions should no longer apply, they said, to an alien “who provided insignificant material support” to an organization or one of its members.

Some Members of Congress and others have criticized laws on “material support” since they were passed following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, claiming they were excessively strict.

“I commend the administration for issuing these much needed -- and long-awaited -- exemptions,” said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “For years, I have worked to reform our policies governing so-called material support for terrorism. The existing interpretation was so broad as to be unworkable. It resulted in deserving refugees and asylees being barred from the United States for actions so tangential and minimal that no rational person would consider them supporters of terrorist activities.”

But other Congressional Members, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), criticized the new policy. “I am deeply concerned that the Obama Administration is changing our immigration laws to allow those who have provided material support to terrorists or terrorist organizations the opportunity to come to or remain in the United States.”

The new policy provides “another loophole” in the U.S. immigration system, he said. “This loophole provides bad actors an opportunity to easily manufacture reasons that ‘forced’ them to provide material support to terrorists. …Yet again, this Administration is abusing the powers granted it by Congress to provide relief in appropriate cases.”

The federal notice listed numerous exceptions that would continue to bar individuals from asylum. Individuals cannot have provided material support with any intent of furthering the terrorist or violent activities of an individual or organization, for example. Individuals also cannot have provided support that they knew or reasonably should have known involved providing, transporting, or concealing weapons, ammunition, explosives, or any of their components.


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