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Asylum seekers and refugees benefit from immigration rules change (audio podcast)
February 11, 2014

Asylum seekers and refugees benefit from immigration rules change (audio podcast)
TRIG bars all people who have taken up arms against an established government, regardless of context. This has effectively barred Syrian refugees who have participated in the Syrian conflict, regardless of affiliation. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

(Washington, D.C.) February 11, 2014 — Provisions in immigration laws passed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, collectively known as terrorism related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG), have affected thousands of persecuted refugees in need of protection, who pose no threat to national security. 

The TRIG provisions "were intended to be a set of criteria that made it impossible for terrorists, would-be terrorists or terrorism supporters to seek protection or refuge in the United States," said Mary Small, Assistant Director for Policy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.

Access to asylum and resettlement in the United States has been denied due to the unintended consequences of the overly-broad application of the "material support to terrorist organizations" bar.

"There are some pretty serious problems with [TRIG], said Small. "It includes an overly broad definition of terrorism that includes activities that have no relationship to what a normal person would consider terrorism."

For example, TRIG bars all people who have taken up arms against an established government, regardless of context. This has effectively barred Syrian refugees who have participated in the Syrian conflict, regardless of affiliation, and Iraqis who fought against the government of Saddam Hussein.

There were also originally no exemptions for providing support under duress. For many refugees and asylum seekers, the very circumstances that form the basis on their claim of persecution have been interpreted in ways that deny them entry into the U.S. 

"It's kind of an absurd system," said Small.

Rules changes announced last week by the Department of Homeland Security seek to address some of the shortcomings of the TRIG provisions. While these are common sense rules changes, they have come under criticism. {Listen to the audio below as Mary Small explains.}

While the exemptions are welcome, JRS/USA believes more must be done.

"The exemptions that have been created are band-aids to a fundamental flaw in the underlying legislation," said Small. "They're important, but I think we have to have the sophistication as a country to understand that the underlying legislation needs to be changed."

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JRS works in more than 50 countries worldwide to meet the educational, health, social and other needs of approximately 700,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.

Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
communicationsdirector@jesuit.org
202-629-5946