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US to ease entry bars on some foreigners giving 'material support' to armed groups

[JURIST] The Bush Administration said Thursday it will propose legislation easing some anti-terrorism restrictions in order to allow foreigners who have helped armed groups not considered terrorists to seek asylum or resettle in the United States. As a result of antiterrorism laws such as the Patriot Act [PDF; JURIST news archive] and the Real ID Act [PDF text] put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks [JURIST news archive], asylum and refugee status was denied to anyone who belongs to or has provided material support [Refugee Council backgrounder] to armed rebel groups, even if that support was coerced or the armed rebel groups were backed by the US. Human rights groups have slammed existing material support policy as being, in the words [statement] of Human Rights First, "so broad that it ends up affecting refugees who do not support terrorism, and even refugees who are actually the victims of violent groups – like Colombian refugees who have been forced to pay money to armed militants." Soon after Thanksgiving last year, HRF appealed [PDF letter; HRF report, PDF] to President Bush to reconsider the policy. Paul Rosenzweig, acting assistant secretary for international affairs at the Department of Homeland Security [official website], expects the administration to present new legislation to Congress by the end of the month.

The new legislation would allow for the resettlement of refugees fleeing from Myanmar [FCNL backgrounder], formerly known as Burma, refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Tibet, and dozens of Cubans who supported armed groups opposed to Fidel Castro in the 1960s. The 5,600 people whose asylum claims have been on hold or who have been admitted as refugees but denied permanent resident status will also receive resolutions in their cases. The New York Times has more.

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