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What do you mean I am a Terrorist?

It is something that most non-citizens do not even think of when they apply for asylum here in the United States. However, it happens on a not-so-infrequent basis. A non-citizen, who was persecuted in their home country, comes to the U.S. for help, for protection, for asylum, and then out of nowhere, they are denied assistance because the U.S. government says they are a terrorist. The reactions are very often ones of confusion, befuddlement and bewilderment. What do you mean I am a terrorist, I have never been arrested or convicted of a crime, I have never done anything wrong, I am the victim!?

This is the position that many non-citizens find themselves in after an asylum office interview gone wrong. But what does the U.S. government mean when they say that you area terrorist, when you’ve never done anything wrong? Beginning in the late 1990’s, the U.S. government began designating organization around the word as terrorist organizations. Congress passed laws saying that if you are a member of one of these organizations, or help them raise money, or help them plan their terrorist attacks, then you are not allowed into the United States and if you are already here, they will try to deport you.

However, most people who are accused of engaging in terrorist activities have never been a terrorist or willingly helped any known terrorists. Many times the government accuses people of providing material support to terrorist organizations. If the government has evidence that you provided material support to a terrorist organization, they can deny you adjustment of status, asylum, withholding of removal and many other immigration benefits.

What do they mean when they say I provided material support to a terrorist organization you ask? There are multiple lists of terrorist organizations available at the U.S. Department of State website. These organizations include well know groups like, HAMAS, Hezbollah, and of course, al-Qaida. However, this list includes other groups like the FARC, ELN and the AUC, all from Colombia. Many Colombian nationals fleeing that country have had problems with one, or all of these groups. Many nationals were forced to pay a vacuna, or “war tax,” or face retribution from these organizations. Many nationals have had friends or family members kidnapped and held for ransom by one of these groups. Unfortunately, paying a Vacuna, or paying ransom so the ELN doesn’t kill your daughter, are both considered acts that mean you engaged in terrorist activities and you are likely barred from almost all forms of immigration relief.

However, if your asylum claim involves one of these groups, or the government has said that you provided material support to a terrorist organization, the experienced attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon can help you. Our attorneys have handled many cases involving this very confusing and complicated area of immigration law. If you wait until your asylum application is denied, it may already be too late. If you have had any interaction with any terrorist group, call us today, we can help.