You can bet the federal refugee contractors are working overtime to get Syrian groups exempted from “terrorism bars” that have helped slow the flow of certain groups of refugees to the US in recent years.
David Garfield of the Garfield Law Group: “For Syrians, I think it’s going to be a major problem.”
It’s ironic that as Obama sends weapons to Syrian ‘rebels,’ he is indeed creating more impediments to refugee resettlement.
Here is the story at Salon:
Authorized by Congress, the CIA has started sending weapons to Syrian rebels. But under a legal definition of terrorism adopted by the U.S. government after the Sept. 11 attacks, those same rebel groups are considered terrorist organizations.
The designation could prevent some of the more than 2 million refugees who have fled Syria from coming to the United States, even if they haven’t actually taken up arms against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Groups that appear on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations have long been banned from entering the U.S. But two antiterrorism laws, the Patriot Act and the Real ID Act, also bar members of armed rebel groups that aren’t specifically designated as terrorist organizations.
The provisions, sometimes known as terrorism bars, apply to all armed rebel groups — even ones the U.S. is actively supporting.
The bars also deny entry to anyone who has given any kind of “material support” — transportation, shelter, money — to such groups.
The U.S. has accepted only 64 Syrian refugees in the last two years, according to a State Department spokeswoman. But it’s unclear how many, if any, Syrians have run afoul of the terrorism bars to date.
US planning to take 2,000 Syrians in FY2014, the trick will be finding 2,000 with no affiliation to the rebel groups!
But the U.N. is preparing to resettle up to 2,000 Syrians in the coming months, said Larry Yungk, senior resettlement officer for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, and the terrorism bars could be a hurdle to resettling them in the U.S.
Washington, DC immigration lawyer: It is going to be a big problem! The law does not differentiate terrorists by good terrorists (the ones we like) and bad terrorists (the ones we are opposing)!
David Garfield, a Washington lawyer who has represented immigrants caught up by the terrorism bars, was more blunt.
“For Syrians, I think it’s going to be a major problem,” Garfield said. “The thing about this law that’s so bizarre is that it doesn’t matter who you’re trying to overthrow.”
A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman, Christopher Bentley, said in a statement to ProPublica that “any Syrians who do apply for refugee or asylum status could be subject” to the bars.
The Citizenship and Immigration website makes clear just how sweeping the laws are: “Significantly, there is no exception under the law for ‘freedom fighters,’ so most rebel groups would be considered to be engaging in terrorist activity even if fighting against an authoritarian regime.” The website also states that refugees can be barred for “providing food, helping to set up tents, distributing literature, or making a small monetary contribution” to rebel groups.
There is a lot more, read it all, including the lengthy discussion about getting exemptions from the “terrorism bars.” And, note this:
Citizenship and Immigration would not say whether any exemptions for Syrian groups were in the pipeline.
I’ll betcha a buck that they are!
Photo is from Garfield’s immigration law group facebook page, here.