STATEMENT OF CHIN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
THE US PATRIOT ACT OF 2001
THE REAL ID ACT OF 2005
April 17, 2006
CHRO is deeply concerned about provisions of the USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001 and the REAL ID Act of 2005 that are hindering Chin asylum seekers and refugees from gaining protection in the United States. CHRO calls on the United States to continue to uphold its commitment under the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. CHRO also calls on the United States Congress to revise legislation that is threatening to unjustifiably bar genuine asylum seekers and refugees from accessing immigration benefits in the United States.
For the past several decades, the United States has generously provided a home to asylum seekers and refugees from Chin State. However, under the USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001 and the REAL ID Act of 2005, the Chin people are at risk of being inappropriately labeled as “terrorists” and subsequently rendered inadmissible to the United States. As the law stands, the definition of “terrorist organizations” and people engaged in “terrorist activities” effectively includes groups organized to defend themselves and their people against authoritarian governments that rule through intimidation and unspeakable brutality. Furthermore, anyone who at anytime provided material support to such organizations or persons, regardless of the magnitude of support or context under which the support was given, is subject to the inadmissibility bar.
A majority of Chin asylum seekers and refugees have provided some form of support at some point in their lives to the Chin National Front (CNF), an armed resistance group organized to promote democracy in Burma and defend the people of Chin State from annihilation by the military regime. Although the U.S. government has never officially categorized the CNF as a terrorist organization, under the overly broad definitions accorded by recent legislation, participation in or support of the CNF is jeopardizing the eligibility of Chin asylum seekers and refugees from gaining sanctuary in the United States. Even minimal forms of support, such as clothing, food, water, or temporary accommodations, are sufficient to activate the inadmissibility bar. In addition, Chins who have been granted status and have made a home in the United States are at risk of being barred from ever obtaining lawful permanent residency or citizenship under the same provisions.
The 2001 and 2005 legislation is also increasing hardships for Chins seeking temporary refuge in neighboring countries. In Malaysia, where tens of thousands of Chin asylumseekers live in instability, a majority of the cases for resettlement to the United States have been put on hold. Due to developing uncertainties in the resettlement process,
neighboring countries are becoming less willing to bear the protracted burden of hosting large numbers of asylum seekers. Furthermore, none of the neighboring countries have ratified the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, which ensures a minimum level of protection for refugee and asylum seekers. Therefore, the thousands of Chin living in India, Malaysia, and Thailand face daily fears of deportation, exploitation, and other abuses.
The Chin people have suffered particularly severe abuses at the hands of the military regime. Violations of human rights throughout Burma are well documented by non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, grassroots organizations, as well as by the United States Government. The United States Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices has consistently taken note of the abysmal human rights record in Burma. In 2005, United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice condemned Burma as an “outpost of tyranny.” Furthermore, for the past seven consecutive years, the United States has listed Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” for committing particularly severe violations of religious freedoms. As a largely Christian community in a predominantly Buddhist country, the people of Chin State are particularly targeted for persecution by the regime.
The Chin Human Rights Organization strongly urges that:
Congress narrows the definition of “terrorist organizations” and “terrorist activities” or creates waivers to ensure the inadmissibility bar does not apply to resistance groups organized to defend themselves and their people from genocidal policies, human rights violations, and abusive tactics committed by illegitimate governments.
The U.S. Homeland Security Chief, Secretary of State, and Attorney General use the power granted to them by Congress to exempt as a group otherwise eligible Chin refugees and asylum seekers from the newly broadened inadmissibility terrorist bar.
Congress narrows the definition of “material support” to exclude involuntary, inadvertent, irregular, insignificant and otherwise excusable contributions to resistance fighters.
The United States ensures that the adjustment process for Chins already granted status in the United States as asylees and refugees is not negatively impacted by the 2001 and 2005 legislation.