[JURIST] US State Department [official website] officials testified [press release; witness list] Wednesday that the number of refugees [JURIST news archive] admitted to the US has fallen by 23 percent as a result of provisions in the USA Patriot Act [text, PDF; JURIST report] and the Real ID Act [text, PDF] that deny entry to any person that has provided material support for armed rebel groups, including those that have aided American troops or opposed authoritarian governments. Ellen Sauerberry, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration [official website], told the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship [official website] that the provisions, which primarily impact refugees trying to flee from Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba [JURIST news archives], broaden the definition of terrorist groups by referring to armed rebel groups as terrorist groups. The State Department will now resettle only 41,200 of 54,000 refugees expected to be admitted by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends this Saturday, marking the lowest number of refugee admissions since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks [JURIST news archive].
Though the laws do allow the State Department to grant waivers for specific populations of armed rebel supporters that pose no threat to the US, they do not allow waivers for refugees who received any kind of military training or actively participated in combat. Allowing resettlement only through waivers for specific populations places an indefinite delay on the resettlement of thousands of refugees, and modifying the waiver to include refugee combatants would entail a lengthy legislative process. The New York Times has more.