In 2001, Congress enacted legislation that significantly broadened the definition of “terrorist activity.” Because the definition was so broad, it encompassed some activities that had no real-life connection to terrorism. Many refugees seeking safety – including those with family already in the United States – were barred from entering the U.S., and many refugees and asylees already offered protection and living in the U.S. were barred from obtaining green cards and reuniting with family members. These people, and in many cases their spouses and children, now languish in limbo largely because of the failure of U.S. agencies to promulgate rules or adopt procedures that Congress clearly contemplated would be rapidly issued when it passed reform legislation in 2007. This limbo status causes refugees, asylees and asylum seekers to remain on “hold” with no ability to prove their non-terrorist status. They continue to face endless delays and even the possibility of being deported. Many have been needlessly separated from their spouses and children for many years and have little hope of reuniting with their families in safety.
A bipartisan coalition in Congress led by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) amended the law in 2007 to authorize the Administration to exempt persons with no actual connection to terrorism from the broad anti-terrorism provisions in our immigrations laws. Despite this progress, more than 4,700 refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. seeking green cards or seeking to bring close family members to the U.S. are on “hold” because their applications reveal that they may fall within the broad definition of “material support” or other activity related to “terrorism.”
- Sign-on Letter to President Obama About TRIG/Refugee Issues (June 29, 2012)
- Panel recording of "Mislabeled as Terrorists: Government Inaction Keeps Refugee Families Apart" - December 20, 2010
- Senator Leahy Expresses Concerns About Refugees, Asylees Under Material Support for Terrorism Laws - November 9, 2011