Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions offered a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration’s decision to write in new exemptions to a law barring access to asylum seekers and refugees who have provided “limited material support” to terrorists, Thursday afternoon.
“Not only is this a national security issue, but a financial issue: those granted admission gain access to federal welfare programs funded by U.S. taxpayers,” Sessions said in a statement. “It seems the Obama Administration has forgotten that our immigration laws are meant to protect the interests of Americans.” (RELATED: Obama administration unilaterally changes law to allow immigrants with ‘limited’ terror contact into US)
The senator cited a recently-released audit of immigration systems — which revealed that 70 percent of applications for asylum contained warning signs for fraud. He also cited warnings from USCIS union head Kenneth Palinkas’ that the immigration processing system has become a “visa clearing house for the world.” He further noted recent reports that those seeking protection in the U.S. due to “credible fear” have skyrocketed, calling it a “glaring enforcement loophole.”
“In light of these and other facts, it is thus deeply alarming that the Obama Administration would move unilaterally to relax admissions standards for asylum-seekers and potentially numerous other applicants for admission who have possible connections to insurgent or terrorist groups,” Sessions, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, continued. “This includes terror groups not yet designated: Al Qaeda was not designated by the Department of State as a foreign terrorist organization until 1999 — long after the first attack on the World Trade Center.”
According to Sessions, the U.S. should tighten such restrictions, not loosen them.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department published the new exemptions in the Federal Register to narrow a ban in the Immigration and Nationality Act excluding refugees and asylum seekers who had provided limited material support to terrorists.
“These exemptions cover five kinds of limited material support that have adversely and unfairly affected refugees and asylum seekers with no tangible connection to terrorism: material support that was insignificant in amount or provided incidentally in the course of everyday social, commercial, family or humanitarian interactions, or under significant pressure,” a DHS official explained to The Daily Caller.
DHS further argued that Section 212(d)(3)(B) of the INA allows either the secretary of state or DHS secretary in consultation with each other and with the U.S. Attorney General “to determine that certain terrorism bars of the INA do not apply.”
Sessions, however, said that DHS does not have the authority to eliminate portions of the law, saying the department’s claim “leaves one incredulous.”
“It is one thing to approve a waiver in a particular case with uniquely compelling circumstances; it is entirely another thing to declare a plain legal requirement is null and void,” he said. “What is the point of Congress passing a law if the Administration abuses its ‘discretion’ to say that law simply no longer applies? This is yet one more instance of the Administration rewriting U.S. code through executive decree.”
Sessions concluded by highlighting his concerns for national security and the rule of law.
“This and other administrative actions bypassing Congress and plain law must end,” he said.