HIAS Applauds New Common Sense Approach to Terrorism Inadmissibility Grounds for Refugees

Posted on Thu, Feb 06, 2014 at 10:55 am

(New York, NY) – The Patriot Act’s overly broad definitions of “terrorist activity” and “terrorist group” that have unjustly prevented thousands of refugees—who do not pose a threat to the United States—from receiving protection in the United States will no longer be applied to certain refugees, according to an announcement Wednesday by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds—known as the “TRIG” bars—affect thousands of refugees who have fought oppression around the world or who interact in the smallest of ways or even unintentionally with individuals and groups engaged in resistance. Under the new policy, “routine commercial transactions,” humanitarian assistance, or support provided under pressure will not necessarily bar a refugee from being granted protection in the United States. In addition, TRIG bars will not apply to individuals who provided “insignificant” or “limited” material support to an undesignated terrorist group or a member of such a group.

This change is also likely to remove legal obstacles for some particularly vulnerable Syrian refugees, including women and children.

“While the new exemptions will not completely resolve the problem presented by the overly broad terrorism bars, and some refugees will continue to be unfairly labeled as “terrorists,” it could help many refugees and asylum seekers who have been waiting for as long as a decade to obtain permanent residence and bring their spouse and children to the United States,” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS President and CEO.