WASHINGTON (March 8, 2007)— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has joined a coalition of religious groups and refugee advocates calling on Congress to address flawed provisions in national security laws that have blocked thousands of vulnerable refugees, freedom fighters, and victims of oppressive regimes from entering the United States.
The Patriot Act and REAL ID Act include provisions that may deny asylum, refugee resettlement, and legal status adjustment to anyone who has provided "material support" — even under threat of death — to a terrorist organization, which is defined broadly under the law. No exception is provided for victims who have been forced under extreme duress to provide a meal to warlords, pay ransom to guerillas to secure their freedom, or other coerced forms of support. Ironically, the law defines "terrorist activity" so broadly as to include the actions of groups who fought alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam and more recently in Iraq.
Despite concerns raised by refugee and human rights advocates, the Bush administration has failed to adequately address this issue. While limited waivers for some groups have recently been issued, a piecemeal response is insufficient and still continues to deny protection to victims of terrorist organizations officially labeled a threat by the U.S. Secretary of State.
Victims of the material support bar, religious leaders, concerned politicians and advocates from Refugee Council USA will propose an effective legislative response during an 8:30 a.m. press conference on March 9 at the Migration Policy Institute, located at 1400 16th Street, NW in Washington, DC.
Retired 1st Sgt. George Clark will be among the speakers. The U.S. Special Forces soldier fought in Vietnam alongside the Motangnards, who are currently prohibited from entering the U.S because of the material support bar.
"Individuals and groups from across the political spectrum agree this 'material support' policy needs major revision so that bona fide refugees and asylum seekers are not unjustly denied protection," said Kevin Appleby, director of the Office of Migration and Refugee Policy at the USCCB. "National security laws should make reasonable distinctions between those who are a real danger to our country, and those innocent refugees who need our protection and can also provide benefits to our society."