What are the Terrorism Bars?
The United States has always had the ability to prevent individuals from entering the United States based on concerns that they present a danger to the security of the country. After 2001, however, Congress enacted several pieces of legislation that purport to keep terrorists from gaining immigration status in the United States but, in practice, result in the denial of protection to many victims of terrorist activity. Under the expanded definition of “terrorist group” and “terrorist activity” created by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 and the REAL ID Act of 2005 (Pub. L. No. 109-13, 119 Stat. 231), groups and activities that would never be considered “terrorist” under the normal understanding of the word are prevented from obtaining asylum protection in the United States. For example, government attorneys have conceded that under these expanded definitions, U.S. Marines operating in Iraq before the fall of Saddam Hussein would have qualified as a terrorist organization. Matter of S-K-, 23 I&N Dec. 935 (BIA 2006), Oral Argument Transcript at 25.
Are any Exemptions Available?
Although some exemptions to the terrorism bars (otherwise know as the "terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds" or TRIG) exist, they are difficult to obtain and are granted at the nearly unreviewable discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. For more information about the currently available exemptions, please see https://www.uscis.gov/laws/terrorism-related-inadmissability-grounds/terrorism-related-inadmissibility-grounds-exemptions. Information on the exemption adjudication process for individuals in removal proceedings can be found here.
NIJC has successfully represented asylees and asylum seekers facing the terrorism bar before the immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals and the U.S. District Courts. If you are a pro bono attorney representing an NIJC client and believe your client might be subject to a terrorism bar, please contact NIJC to discuss your case.
- BIA decision finding that an Iranian asylum seeker is not subject to the terrorism bar.
- "From war-torn Uganda to uncertain fate in Chicago," Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 22, 2010.
- "Shining a Light: Pro bono attorneys fight to expose how asylum seekers are labeled as terrorists," Chicago Lawyer, August 2013