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ADC Comments on Immigration Legislation

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Gannett News Service
April 5, 2006 Wednesday
HEADLINE: Allard wants to keep foreign terrorism advocates out
BYLINE: DIANA MARRERO
Sen. Wayne Allard wants to block foreigners who advocate terrorism from entering the United States.
Allard, R-Colo., has introduced an amendment to immigration legislation being debated in the Senate that he says would address a State Department policy that allows people who voice support for terrorism into this country.
“If advocacy of terrorism is not grounds for exclusion, I don’t know what is,” Allard said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
Allard said he introduced the amendment because the State Department continues to instruct its consular officers that advocacy of terrorism is not always grounds for keeping someone out of the country. State Department officials did not return calls seeking comment.
As an example, Allard’s spokeswoman Angela de Rocha cited the case of Rahmatullah Hashemi, a former Taliban spokesman now enrolled at Yale University. The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until 2001 using a strict interpretation of the Koran, garnered criticism worldwide for its treatment of women and support for terrorism.
“Admittance to the United States is a privilege, not a right,” Allard said. “My amendment says, if you advocate for terrorism, you lose the privilege of coming to the United States.”
Allard said Congress already has passed legislation such as the Patriot Act and the Real ID Act that denies visas to terrorists. The Real ID Act, which was signed into law last year, specifically states that anyone who “endorses or espouses terrorist activity” should be blocked from coming here, Allard noted. Allard sees his amendment as a way to further clarify that position.
But Islamic and Arab groups question whether the amendment could have unintended consequences.
Supporters of Palestinian rights could be accused of supporting terrorism, they say. And people who may have belonged to a group as a young student could be linked decades later to what would now be considered a terrorist group, said Laila Al-Qatami, communications director for the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee.
Immigrant rights groups have complained existing immigration laws have kept political refugees, such as Colombians who were forced to pay war taxes to insurgent groups, from seeking asylum in this country.
“On the face of it, it would seem advocating for terrorism is fairly straight forward,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It’s clear everyone is against terrorism. But we need to see what the definition of terrorism would be and who gets to define it.”
Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union say Allard’s amendment is unnecessary because the government already can deny entry to people who have ties to terrorist groups. And it shifts the focus from penalizing people for speech rather than conduct, said Timothy Sparapani, who tracks legislation for the group.
“We’re trying to act tough on terrorism,” he said, “but really are just clamping down on free speech.”