Migration Policy Institute
Denial and Delay: How Terrorism-Related Provisions in Immigration Law Affect Asylum Seekers and Refugees
Kathleen Newland, Director of MPI's Refugee Policy Program
Anwen Hughes, report co-author and Senior Counsel and Deputy Director of Human Rights First's Refugee Protection Program
Brandon Prelogar, Special Advisor for Refugee & Asylum Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Melanie Nezer, HIAS Senior Director of U.S. Programs and Advocacy
Media outlets, human-rights organizations, and members of Congress continue to highlight cases of refugees and asylum seekers denied protection and resettlement to the United States because of overly broad terrorism-related provisions in U.S. immigration laws. This is despite the fact that these individuals pose no security threat to the United States and have not committed individual acts of wrongdoing. Often, their cases are denied or put on hold based on involuntary support of groups deemed terrorist organizations or affiliation with groups abroad that opposed repressive regimes or supported U.S. objectives. Some high-profile cases involve Iraqis who fought the regime of Saddam Hussein alongside U.S. forces; children who were forced to fight or provide support to groups deemed terrorist; or applicants related to someone deemed a terrorist but never themselves involved in any terrorist activities. While the U.S. Congress attempted to address the impact of these provisions in 2007 by instituting a waiver process and exempting certain groups of refugees, this piecemeal approach has proven to be unworkable and thousands of refugees remain in limbo with their applications for asylum, permanent residence, and family reunification on hold. Some face a real threat of deportation back to a country where they face persecution. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) hosted a discussion on these issues, on the occasion of a report released by Human Rights First. The report examines the flaws and lack of flexibility in the current system and provides recommendations to focus the scope and application of terrorism-related immigration law provisions to target those who are a threat to U.S. security and whom Congress intended to target. Kathleen Newland, Director of MPI’s Refugee Policy Program, moderated the discussion with report co-author Anwen Hughes, Senior Counsel and Deputy Director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection Program and Melanie Nezer, Senior Director of U.S. Programs and Advocacy at Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society who discussed legislative and administrative efforts that have sought to mitigate some of the harmful consequences of these provisions.