PATRIOT Overreaches: Who Knew?


The Department of Homeland Security is still using anti-terror laws to refuse and deport refugees:

In central Florida, Lam Kim, 47, is fighting deportation. Kim fled Burma after soldiers ransacked her parents' house and found letters from the Chin National Front thanking her for a donation. The organization, which the Bush administration has labeled a terrorist group, is fighting against the Burmese military junta.

Kim, who uses a pseudonym, said she gave the money to help the group feed people in her ethnic group. She was jailed for two years after arriving in the United States in 2004, and her asylum request was rejected by an immigration judge. "If I go back to Burma," she said softly over the telephone, "I have to give my life. I am not terrorist. I say it not fair." 

The PATRIOT Act mandates denial of asylum to individuals who give "material support" to any group the State Department deems terrorist. Kim is incarcerated and facing deportation (and likely execution upon her arrival in Yangon) because she gave some money to a group resisting…Myanmar's military dictatorship. The Post quotes a cohort of flabbergasted pro-PATRIOT conservatives:

Gary L. Bauer, president of American Values, a conservative public policy group, said the anti-terrorism thrust of laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the Real ID Act is supported by most conservatives, "but the enforcement of it has lapsed into ludicrousy. The concept of material support is being distorted, and even the definition of the term 'terrorism' is being turned on its ear." 

Someone needs to explain why giving money to the Chin National Front shouldn't count as material support. What's more material than a cash donation? The Department of Homeland Security isn't distorting a law by broadly defining its terms; it's just following a ridiculously broad law. But that interpretation of events implicates more than a few confused bureaucrats.