As Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano prepares to leave her position next month, numerous faith-based and human rights organizations are calling on her to finally resolve a problem that has caused uncertainty and pain for many refugees.
Thousands of refugees remain stuck in legal limbo by immigration law definitions of “terrorism” that are widely acknowledged to be harming the very refugees the United States has committed to protect. Two years ago, the administration pledged to “significantly reduce” the number of cases that were on hold by the end of fiscal year 2012, but so far this hasn’t happened. Secretary Napolitano has the ability to change this by taking several steps before she leaves her post, including signing additional group exemptions – many of which have been under consideration for months or even years.
Human Rights First and 57 leading faith-based, humanitarian, and refugee-serving organizations, as well as prominent law professors, recently sent a letter to Secretary Napolitano urging her finally to clear this unfinished work from her desk before she leaves her position. “The principles of fairness and family unity should be applied to these refugees and asylees, who were admitted to this country legally and have been waiting for as long as ten years to obtain permanent resident status with their spouses and children,” the letter stated.
The signatories urged Secretary Napolitano to use the authority given to her by Congress to once and for all fix this problem for the thousands of refugees and asylees who have been mislabeled as “terrorists.” As detailed in two reports issued by Human Rights First, overbroad definitions and interpretations of the terms “terrorist organization” and “terrorist activity” in U.S. immigration law have ensnared people with no real connection to terrorism.