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Asylum loophole widens; terrorist sympathizers flock

Conservative Review

After years of operating under the public radar, there has thankfully been a lot of focus on our wasteful and dangerous refugee program in recent months.  However, there has been less attention paid to our asylum policies, which will pose even more of a safety and cultural concern in the coming years.

Both refugees and asylum-seekers can apply for relief and become permanent legal residents if they demonstrate a credible fear of religious or ethnic persecution.  The difference is that refugees must file applications from outside our country and can only enter in a controlled manner, albeit without much transparency in recent years.  Asylees, on the other hand, essentially penetrate our borders by any means, much like illegal immigrants, and then declare themselves eligible for permanent legal status as persecuted minorities.  With the growing upheaval not just in Central America but throughout the Middle East, the abuse of our asylum program has the potential to turn all sorts of radical Islamic immigrants (especially those who come here illegally) into legal permanent residents against the consent of the citizenry.

Earlier this week, AP reported a story about two Palestinians, Mounis Hammouda and Hisham Shaban, who made their way across the Arizona border in November 2014 via multiple countries, beginning in Greece.  Who are these two individuals?

Hammouda, 30, said he fled Gaza in 2011 after members of Hamas, the Islamic political party, tortured his father because he worked for Fatah, a rival organization. He said his family was targeted.

He said he had to drop out of college and quit his pursuit of a law degree. He was blacklisted and couldn't find work.

Relatives helped him find money and a visa to leave Gaza in 2011. He traveled alone to Cairo, Istanbul, and both parts of Cyprus before settling in a refugee camp in the Greek-controlled part. […]

Shaban, 32 also grew up in Gaza. He said his family lived next door to a Hamas operative who was the target of a bombing that left Shaban's family home destroyed. None of his relatives was injured, but he said he felt unsafe.

Thus, an individual from Gaza whose father belonged to one terrorist group, Fatah, can now migrate to America, claim a credible fear of persecution from Hamas, and post bail to live among us.  Fatah has been even more instrumental in the escalation of the recent stabbing intifada in Israel than Hamas.  This is a growing problem with the abuse of our asylum statutes.  Asylum was meant for religious minorities—for example, Christian Arabs being persecuted in Gaza.  They were never designed to allow in endless scores of potentially radical Muslims who feel unsafe because they are caught in Islamic civil wars.  If that is our standard for asylum, there is no end to the number of radical Islamic immigrants, including those with ties to terrorists, who can migrate here and legitimately claim persecution at the hands of another Islamic group.   

What this story demonstrates is that the vast oceans surrounding America will not spare us from the radical Islamic invasion we are witnessing in Europe.  Sure, the natural geographical barriers will prevent us from becoming Germany in a short period of time, but even if we shut down the refugee program, a number of radical Middle Easterners will continue finding their way here through numerous ports of entry and apply for asylum.

What is also jarring about this story is how after the welfare in Greece dried up, Greek officials actually helped these Palestinians travel to the Western Hemisphere:

He met Hammouda there, where the men bonded over being unable to work as the economy tanked and their government aid shrunk. There was no work for the men and nothing for them to do, they said.

The men heard one day that they didn't need a visa to enter Venezuela, so they spoke with Greek immigration officials who agreed to let them go there, even funding portions of their flights, they said.

The trend is only getting worse.  Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Libya and North Africa are expected to pour into Europe in the coming months, and Western officials do not know who they are.  As this story demonstrates, unless we telegraph the message that our policies are changing, they will show up at out southern border and will become de facto permanent residents of America.  In April, federal prosecutors revealed that one of the suspects in a Somali pro-ISIS cell in Minnesota wanted to establish a route through our southern border to bring in foreign fighters.  Last November, eight Syrians showed up at the southern border asking for asylum, and as the LA Times reported at the time, such applications have increased since the start of the Syrian civil war.  It’s not hard to see how jihadists can make the trek across our southern border and exploit the publicly known loophole of asserting a credible fear they will be persecuted back home.  Once they have gained a foothold on our soil, the vetting process is even more tenuous and rushed then the refugee screening done overseas.     

The next president, along with Congress, must close the loopholes in the asylum program by being sure to:

  • Enforce international law requiring asylum seekers to apply for asylum in the first safe country they encounter in their journey.  In this case, the drying up of welfare in Greece should not count as a reason to disregard that country as the nation of first refuge.  In most cases, asylum seekers pass through Mexico to come here, which in itself should disqualify them for asylum status because Mexico is a signatory to the international agreements on non-return.
  • Better define the statutory language of persecuted “social group” so that it remains in line with the traditional impetus for our asylum laws: to protect religious and ethnic minorities.  The existing statute calls on the applicant to “establish that race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.”  We have to ensure that the latter two examples don’t categorically include, for example, any Shia being persecuted by a Sunni Muslim or a Fatah member being persecuted by a Hamas member.


Together with temporary protected status and parole, the loophole in our asylum program will not only encourage more illegal immigration from the Middle East, it will essentially ensure there is no such thing as an illegal immigrant. Anyone who manages to make it to our shores will be able to litigate themselves into a path to American citizenship.  In an era of Jihad and ubiquitous Islamic civil wars, that is a recipe for national suicide.      

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