Unintended Consequences: Refugee Victims of the War on Terror

Human Rights Institute, Georgetown University Law Center


Anti-terrorism legislation adopted under the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the REAL ID Act of 2005 amended section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to widely expand the class of individuals considered inadmissible to the United States for having “engaged in terrorist activity,” including by providing “material support” to “terrorists” or “terrorist organizations.” The collection of amended terrorism provisions in the INA creates the grounds for inadmissibility that this report refers to as the “material support bar.” As a result of its overbroad language and lack of a duress exception, the material support bar has already prevented thousands of refugees from obtaining asylum relief or resettlement in the United States. Although this legislation may have imposed a formidable barrier on the ability of terrorists to pose as refugees, it has also had the perverse effect of shutting the door on thousands of meritorious refugees who are the victims of terrorism. In effect, the United States has foreclosed entry for those individuals who have suffered at the hands of the very terrorist groups it seeks to target.