The Obama administration allowed 1,519 terror-stained foreign refugees into the U.S. last year because their crimes were allegedly committed “while under duress.”
The administration last year eased federal restrictions against terrorist activity for refugees and asylum seekers. Under the old rules, these 1,519 foreign nationals would have been banned from entering the country because they supported terrorist causes.
But under the new rules for vetting refugees, the secretary of Homeland Security has “discretionary authority” to waive certain cases of inadmissibility relating to terrorist activity.
A person could have provided shelter or sold a weapon to a terrorist, for instance, then claimed he did not know that the person being helped was a terrorist or that he was forced to provide the aid under duress.
“We’ve seen this discretionary authority abused in the last few years and, in fact, the administration has eliminated a zero-tolerance policy for granting asylum or residency to individuals who have provided any sort of terrorism-related support,” said a release from Judicial Watch Tuesday.
The watchdog agency said the federal government’s latest available figures for granting asylum or residency to foreigners participating in terrorist causes are “incredibly disturbing, especially since the agency charged with keeping the nation safe, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), appears to downplay the seriousness of the crimes.”
Judicial Watch obtained the numbers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services annual report to Congress on the DHS secretary’s application of discretionary authority.
The biggest chunk of exemptions was processed for refugee applicants and lawful permanent resident status with 806 and 614, respectively.
The U.S. took in 70,000 foreign refugees in fiscal 2015, which ends Sept. 30, and Obama has decided to increase that number to 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017. In addition to the refugees, the U.S. takes in about 25,000 asylees every year.
The remainder of the terror-connected persons were processed under other DHS programs such as temporary protected status, or TPS, which allows foreign persons here as students, tourists or other reasons to stay beyond their visa expirations due to natural disasters or wars in their homelands.
“The bottom line is that the U.S. government is allowing them all to stay in the country with rights and benefits afforded to legal residents despite their terrorist connections and associations,” said Judicial Watch.
More than half of the candidates rewarded by DHS last year provided material support to terrorist organizations, according to the DHS report. The others received military-type training from a terrorist organization, voluntarily provided medical care to members of a terrorist group and solicited funds or individuals for membership in a terrorist organization.
After a case-by-case review, Obama DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson determined that the recently admitted terrorists only participated in these activities “while under duress.”
This effort was officially launched last year when the administration quietly changed the Immigration and Nationality Act, or INS, implemented decades ago to govern immigration and citizenship in the United States.
The law includes a ban on admitting refugees and asylum seekers who may have provided terrorists with any sort of material support, even the kind that may be considered trivial by some.
“In other words, the federal law rightfully had a zero tolerance for any kind of involvement with terrorist elements,” Judicial Watch reported. “But a joint effort by DHS and the State Department created an ‘Exercise of Authority’ that allows ‘an alien who provided limited material support’ to a terrorist organization to stay in the U.S. if the powers that be in our government believe they pose no threat.”
“The administration seems to have a soft spot for terrorists,” Judicial Watch concluded. “A few months after the INS change was exposed, a frustrated U.S. senator revealed that the administration appears to have a terrorist ‘hands off’ list that permits individuals with extremist ties to enter the country.
“The lawmaker obtained the information from internal DHS documents that include communication between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking whether to admit an individual with ties to various terrorist groups. The suspect had scheduled an upcoming flight into the U.S. and was believed to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a close associate and supporter Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”