Refugee Crisis Punishing victims of the Iraq war

Posted: March 15, 2007

Washington is creating more animosity among Iraqis and friendly Middle East nations with its pathetic response to the growing refugee emergency in Iraq.

The United Nations estimates that 700,000 Iraqis fled to neighboring Jordan, as many as one million more to Syria, and an additional 160,000 to other countries to avoid sectarian violence.

Syria and Jordan are straining under the added population. They have made clear they expect others to take some of those refugees to relieve the stress.

Considering that the United States helped to create this crisis, you'd think - you'd hope - that Washington would step up to help refugees.

Wrong.

The United States has admitted 466 Iraqi refugees since the war began. The recent decision to admit about 7,000 more this year is still a slap in the face of Iraqi refugees.

One of the barriers to their entering the United States is a provision of U.S. immigration law put into place through legislation passed after the 9/11 attacks. It bars refugees who supplied "material support" - money, supplies, a bowl of rice - to people deemed terrorists. That includes Iraqi insurgents.

That might be good policy to keep out obvious terrorist financiers. But it also is snagging Iraqis who paid ransoms to get back their kidnapped children and other relatives.

Get ready to slap your forehead: That ransom is considered material support to terrorists.

Exceptions to the material-support clause have been made for some groups, mostly for minorities in Myanmar. The Department of Homeland Security understands that innocent Iraqis are getting caught up in the provision as well.

Refugees, especially those whose families were put in danger because they worked for the U.S. effort, cannot wait too long. They need government officials to stop being blinded by absolutism and fear.

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