Monday, January 8, 2007

Anti-terror hindering asylum cases

The Post has finally picked up on a story that has been brewing for more than three years now. The sweeping and high-handed definitions of terrorism used in legislation passed since Sept. 11th are complicating the asylum process. The Darryl Fears article in today's Post pick out some great examples:
Vager Vang, 63, is one of thousands of ethnic Hmong refugees in the United States who is hoping to gain legal residency with his green-card application. Vang fought in Laos alongside U.S. forces during the Vietnam War and helped rescue an American pilot who was shot down there. But according to some interpretations of the Patriot Act, Vang is a former terrorist who fought against the communist Laotian government. Although his admission that he fought with Americans helped him gain refugee status in the United States in 1999, it may have hindered his green-card application after Sept. 11, 2001. The application has stalled at the Department of Homeland Security, and Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, the California group that helped him fill it out, is suspicious. [snip] In central Florida, Lam Kim, 47, is fighting deportation. Kim fled Burma after soldiers ransacked her parents' house and found letters from the Chin National Front thanking her for a donation. The organization, which the Bush administration has labeled a terrorist group, is fighting against the Burmese military junta. Kim, who uses a pseudonym, said she gave the money to help the group feed people in her ethnic group. She 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." [snip] 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."
Before Sept. 11, 2001, Americans were content to deride terrorism and guerrilla warfare as the dirty affairs of the Third World. It was too complicated and immoral for a morally-just and self-righteous state to even consider (even though we have sponsored our fair share of guerrillas and partisans in the past). Once the dust settled on Sept. 12th, Americans wanted a return to the clean justice and order they had experienced only two days before. Terrorism was removed from its political context, pronounced 'evil' and made the adversary of in a long war. Some Americans ( John Robb for example) haven't forgotten the indelible fact that all political violence, including terrorism, is relative. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. It is a simple as that. I would even go so far as to postulate that the difference between criminal violence and political violence is that the former has an actor and victim, while the latter has an actor, a victim and an intended (third party) audience.

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