Thursday, July 5, 2012
Anti-Terrorism Law Has No Exception for ‘Legitimate Violence’—Court
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A federal law that bars anyone who gives material support to a terrorist organization from receiving asylum or withholding of removal recognizes no exception for “legitimate political violence” or for having assisted under duress, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
The panel affirmed an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals denying Satheeskumar Annachamy’s bid to remain in this country. The board ruled that the undocumented immigrant from Sri Lanka was ineligible for relief because he admitted giving money to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers or the LTTE.
The LTTE was a militant organization that fought a decades-long war with the Sri Lankan government, ending in 2009, in an unsuccessful bid to create an ethnic homeland for Tamils. More than 70,000 people reportedly died in the war, many by suicide attack, bomb blast, or assassination.
The LTTE was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the Department of State in 1997.
Annachamy, in testimony found credible by an immigration judge, said he had never been a member of the group, and that he opposed it, but that members sought him out, blindfolded him, took him to their camp, and forced him to cook and perform other chores for them.
He was later able to avoid having to perform similar service only because he gave them money, equivalent to about $37 in total.
He also said that he had been arrested several times by government forces on suspicion of being an LTTE member or supporter, and had been detained on several occasions between 1986 and 2004 before fleeing the country. He arrived in the United States in 2005.
The immigration judge ruled that he was eligible for asylum and withholding of removal. The statute excluding supporters of terrorist groups from receiving those remedies didn’t apply, the IJ ruled, because his “life or freedom would have been threatened” if he didn’t help.
But the BIA and the Ninth Circuit said the IJ was reading an exception into the statute that didn’t exist.
Judge Raymond Fisher, writing for the appellate court, also rejected the argument that the LTTE was engaged in a form of “legitimate political violence.”
Annachamy, the judge noted, admitted that the LTTE engaged in terrorist activity.
“Annachamy provides no textual hook for his argument that the material support bar does not apply to political offenses. He argues only that denying relief to aliens who have participated in political offenses would violate the United States’ obligations under international law and would lead to troubling results, whereby, for instance, individuals who resisted the Nazis would be barred from obtaining asylum.”
The court, Fisher noted, has rejected similar arguments in the past, as has the BIA, which held in a 2006 ruling that “Congress intentionally drafted the terrorist bars to relief very broadly, to include even those people described as ‘freedom fighters,’ and it did not intend to give us discretion to create exceptions for members of organizations to which our Government might be sympathetic.”
The case is Annachamy v. Holder, 07-70336.
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