Counterproductive and Counterintuitive Counterterrorism: The Post-September 11 Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers
30 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2007 Last revised: 1 Apr 2008
This Article critiques U.S. counterterrorism measures that directly target refugees and asylum-seekers. The United States currently offers protection to individuals and families fleeing persecution through two programs: the overseas refugee resettlement program (available to refugees residing outside the United States) and the asylum system (available to those who apply for refugee protection on U.S. soil). Almost immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States implemented a refugee resettlement moratorium that resulted in lengthy delays and the failure to resettle thousands of refugees previously cleared to enter the United States. Several years later, on May 11, 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which included a section entitled Preventing Terrorists from Obtaining Relief from Removal that purported to reform the asylum system but in actuality was nothing more than an awkwardly-drafted codification of existing case law. Both anti-terrorism measures failed to appreciate that none of the September 11 hijackers were refugees, asylees, or asylum-seekers. Moreover, their implementation erroneously linked refugees and asylum seekers with terrorist attacks and mischaracterized the refugee resettlement program and asylum system as havens for suicide bombers. Finally, neither the resettlement moratorium nor the Real ID Act asylum provisions likely have had any significant impact on national security.
Keywords: terrorism, asylum, immigration, refugee
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