Conservatives who supported President Bush's reelection have joined liberal groups in expressing outrage over his administration's broad use of anti-terrorism laws to reject asylum for thousands of people seeking refuge from religious, ethnic and political persecution.
The critics say the administration's interpretation of provisions mandating denial of asylum to individuals who give "material support" to terrorist groups is so broad that foreigners who fought alongside U.S. forces in wars such as Vietnam can be denied asylum on the grounds that they provided aid to terrorists.
Advocates for refugees add that people who were forced to aid terrorist fighters at gunpoint could be labeled as supporters and turned away; such cases include a nurse who was abducted and told to treat a guerrilla fighter in Colombia and a woman in Liberia who said her father was killed and she was raped and forced to stand by as rebels occupied her home for several days.
"This is so indefensible," said Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute and a former lawyer in the Reagan administration. "It is causing heroes who fought for the United States to be afraid of being deported."
"It's outrageous," said Barrett Duke, vice president of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "I think it's essentially a reaction of fear to the current terrorist danger." The language in the laws, he added, is "a knee-jerk reaction."
Gary L. Bauer, president of American Values, a conservative public policy group, said the anti-terrorism thrust of laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the Real ID Act is supported by most conservatives, "but the enforcement of it has lapsed into ludicrousy. The concept of material support is being distorted, and even the definition of the term 'terrorism' is being turned on its ear." [This was too heartless and extreme for Gary Bauer??? Also, everyone knows that "ludicrousy" is not a word. The correct term is "ludicrosity."]
[Lam Kim] was jailed for two years after arriving in the United States in 2004, and her asylum request was rejected by an immigration judge. "If I go back to Burma," she said softly over the telephone, "I have to give my life. I am not terrorist. I say it not fair."
A Colombian nurse living in California who declined to give her name said she was abducted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) outside Bogota and forced to treat one of their soldiers. She fled Colombia with her daughter in 2000 after her life was threatened in a note to her family. Her asylum request was rejected last year.
"I had no option," she said. "What will happen if I go back? I will be killed. They look for people. They know when they arrive at the airport. They have names."
"I will completely own up to wishing we had done more, but it's a big department," [Homeland Security advisory committee chairman Paul Rosenzweig] said....
Jennifer Daskal, a program director for Human Rights Watch [said,] "The administration presented a proposal... and basically said, 'Trust us.' It's been two years, and the administration hasn't done a whole lot to instill confidence."
Wow, where have we heard that before...
Based on the front-page headline (as opposed to the more correct article headline), I really thought that the story would be about conservatives finally taking Bush policies to their logical conclusion and rejecting their obligation to obey U.S. laws in general. But it's actually sort of heartening to know that even hard-core conservatives are uncomfortable with some (repeat, some) of the administration's crueler policies. Why, they almost sound compassionate, even.