As Townhall reported last week, the Biden administration enacted a new “determination” allowing exceptions to established prohibitions on terrorism-connected individuals receiving immigration benefits in the United States in order to bring Taliban associates into the country from Afghanistan.
Now, a group of Republican senators led by Bill Hagerty (R-TN) are demanding answers from the Biden administration given the disaster that was its withdrawal from Afghanistan one year ago and its failure to deal with illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We write because the American people deserve an explanation regarding the broad, open-ended nature of this authority for exempting individuals who would otherwise be barred from immigration to the United States for supporting a terrorist organization,” the Republican members of the Senate explain in their letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The June 8 Determination alters U.S. immigration policy and for obvious reasons affects the security of the United States by making individuals who provided material support to terrorist organizations eligible to enter the United States and receive ‘immigration benefits or other status[es]’ at the expense of American taxpayers,” the letter notes. “This sort of substantial, inadequately explained change to U.S. immigration policy implicating obvious U.S. national security interests merits further explanation and congressional scrutiny.”
The letter acknowledges that the executive branch — namely the heads of DHS and the State Department — “can exempt certain persons from this prohibition” under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(d)(3)(B)(i) but notes that “[u]sually, such an exemption is limited to specific groups or conflicts for obvious reasons.”
There are a few times in recent history when individuals were exempted from the prohibition, as the Republican senators explain:
For example, in 2019, this authority was applied to visa or other immigration-related applications for an activity or association relating to the Lebanese Forces militias (“2019 Determination”). The 2019 Determination is narrowly tailored and does not apply outside the context of the Lebanese civil war that occurred between 1975 and 1990. It also clearly states that it does not apply to any alien that engaged in terrorist activity or knowingly provided any level of material support to terrorist activities that targeted noncombatants or U.S. interests.
Similarly, in 2012, this exemption authority was applied with respect to aliens in the context of activities or associations relating to the uprisings against Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq (“2012 Determination”). Like the 2019 Determination, the 2012 Determination is confined to a specific group of aliens from a certain geographic area during a specified period of time.
However, the Biden administration’s new exemption from early June “widely exempts persons who provided ‘insignificant material support’ or ‘limited material support under circumstances’ to a designated terrorist organization.”
Under Biden, the Department of Homeland Security has claimed its broad exemption is to help “vulnerable Afghans” but the latest official edict in the matter “makes no mention of Afghanistan or Afghan refugees and is not limited to the categories of Afghan individuals” that were described in press releases on the exemption. As the senators point out, the Biden administration’s exemption “is not limited to certain conflicts, terrorist organizations, geographic regions, or time periods at all.”
The Republicans’ letter also points out that the Biden administration issued a similar exemption “that was specifically limited to individuals who were employed as civil servants in Afghanistan during a specific time frame” and therefore more in-line with previous exemptions to immigration prohibitions for associates of terrorists. But the more tailored exemption “highlights and calls into question the broad, open-ended nature of the June 8 Determination, which is not in any way limited to vulnerable Afghans or persons involved with the conflict in Afghanistan.”
So what is the Biden administration up to? Why issue one exemption that’s tailored and specific and another that’s overly broad? Republican Senators point out that, under the Biden administration’s wide exemption, “could include, for example, current or former members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and IRGC-linked entities, which are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “could include individuals seeking asylum at the southern border.