US easing immigration rule for terrorist support

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 10, 2014 at 4:12 am •  Published: February 10, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has eased the rules for would-be asylum-seekers, refugees and others who hope to come to the United States or stay here and who gave "limited" support to terrorists or terrorist groups.

The change is one of President Barack Obama's first actions on immigration since he pledged during his State of the Union address last month to use more executive directives.

The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department now say that people considered to have provided "limited material support" to terrorists or terrorist groups are no longer automatically barred from the United States.

A post-Sept. 11 provision in immigrant law, known as terrorism related inadmissibility grounds, had affected anyone considered to have given support. With little exception, the provision has been applied rigidly to those trying to enter the U.S. and those already here but wanting to change their immigration status.

For Morteza Assadi, a 49-year-old real estate agent in northern Virginia, the law has left him in a sort of immigration purgatory while his green card application has been on hold for more than a decade.

As a teenager in Tehran, Iran, in the early 1980s, Assadi distributed fliers for a mujahedeen group that opposed the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the U.S. government at one time considered a terrorist organization. Assadi said he told the U.S. government about his activities when he and his wife applied for asylum in the late 1990s. Those requests were later granted and his wife has since become a U.S. citizen. But Assadi's case has remained stalled.

"When we are teenagers, we have different mindsets," Assadi said. "I thought, I'm doing my country a favor."

Assadi said he only briefly associated with the group, which was removed from Washington's list of terrorist organizations in 2012, and that he was never an active member or contributor to its activities. Now he's hopeful that the U.S. government will look at his teenage activities as "limited."

His lawyer, Parastoo Zahedi, said she has filed a lawsuit in federal court to force U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process Assadi's green card application but now hopes the government will act on its own.

"In the past, the minute your name was associated with a (terrorist) organization you were being punished," Zahedi said. "Not every act is a terrorist act, and you can't just lump everyone together."

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