Sunday, December 31, 2006

material support

The LA Times reports on the post-9/11 laws denying admission to the U.S. to refugees and asylees who have provided “material support” to terrorist groups:

The first time they came for her, the Colombian guerrillas shoved the 31-year-old nurse blindfolded into the back of a green Renault sedan. Her kidnappers took her to a house and forced her to treat one of their commandants, who was writhing in pain from a bullet wound to the leg.

The woman said she was abducted seven more times in 1997 and 1998 to give medical care to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia members. They warned her not to go to the police. "I know you have a daughter," one man said, prodding her with a gun. In 2000, after her cousin was tortured and killed, she fled. Now she is in Northern California, working as a nurse and raising her daughter.

Today, her hopes of staying in the U.S. have run smack into the war on terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security rejected her asylum claim. Their reason: By giving the guerrillas medical care — willingly or not — she was supporting terrorism.

Laws passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, deny admission to anyone who has provided "material support" — money, food, clothing, advice — to terrorist groups. In the last few years, these provisions and the definition of terrorism have been expanded to the point that they are disqualifying people who even immigration judges agree pose no threat to the U.S.

Refugee advocates cite cases in which the administration has denied asylum to Liberian women forced to cook and clean for rebels who raped them and killed family members. Colombians who paid kidnappers' ransoms to free family members also have been barred for providing material support. So many refugee applicants have been blocked for this reason that last year the United Nations Refugee Agency stopped trying to settle Colombians in the U.S.

This is seriously problematic, and it fundamentally undermines the asylum/refugee system, such as it is. It’s not even a rational policy, since we’re effectively giving a green light to guerilla groups to go ahead and abuse the local population. As far as we’re concerned, victims of terror, if they’re not American, merit the same treatment as perpetrators of terror. The raped are as culpable as the rapists. This administration can’t be bothered to distinguish between the two groups.

This is par for the course for an administration that has allowed the immigration system to fall into shameful disrepair—intentionally or out of sheer incompetence and carelessness, it isn’t clear—for instance, by failing to enact any implementing regulations whatsoever to govern U-visa applications (available to victims of crimes who cooperate with law enforcement authorities) 6 years after the visa category was created by Congress. Let’s say you have no legal status in this country and you’ve been kidnapped and brutally raped by a U.S. citizen, then overcome whatever qualms you had about going to the authorities, knowing you could potentially be deported, to provide the DA’s office with the information it needs to have your rapist convicted and jailed. Even so, you can’t actually get a U-visa yet because the Department of Homeland Security has not yet written the rules for how such visas are to be processed.

The main take-away message with all of this is that unless you have a U.S. passport, we don’t really care what happens to you. Rest assured that the rest of the world hears this message loud and clear even if ordinary Americans have no idea we’re sending it.

1 comment:

Karla said...

I previously wondered at conservative contempt for government, and was shocked to realize several years ago that some supposedly serious-minded people actually encouraged and hoped for huge deficits and inept governance in order to "shrink the beast." But the idea seems to have taken hold. Deliberately careless, shoddy, stupid government seems to be a patriotic duty for some conservatives (using the term loosely). The same people probably believe they are hastening the Second Coming of Christ by provoking wars and destroying the planet. I would have thought it a joke, or at least a stretch, some years ago, but now I'm not sure. The level of incompetence must be deliberate. One could not reach educated adulthood with such mindless insularity, unless there was some kind of overriding belief in the ultimate benefit of such stupid behavior. Destroy America in order to save it? Scare everyone else in the world off by our overweening obliviousness? What do you think is the purpose? Again, it can't be that they are simply as dumb and careless as they seem!