Sunday, February 11, 2007

How would a Patriot Act?

That is the title of Glenn Greenwald's book. But we also need to ask that question of the dreadful law itself.

Almost a year ago, a disturbing story came out about how the ill-considered -- or unconsidered -- USA Patriot Act was preventing refugees from seeking asylum in the US. At the time, stipulations in the Patriot Act were affecting Burmese refugees and many others who were trying to escape the clutches of various repressive regimes:
some 9500 Burmese refugees' relocation to the US is being held up because stipulations within the Patriot Act disallow dissidents or even those who may have supported such activity in other, usually repressive, countries should not be allowed entrance into the US. In an incredibly conflicted turn, while the US continues to ostracize and sanction the Castro government, Cuban refugees who supported armed resistance to the Castro regime are now regarded as terrorists by the Patriot Act.
In May, Condoleezza Rice granted a waiver of Patriot Act rules to the Burmese refugees but the situation remains dire for anyone else. Via email, my attention was directed to another legacy tale from the annals of the Patriot Act:
Last year, Helene, a woman from Sierra Leone, and her family were attacked with machetes, burned, and sexually assaulted by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front. The rebels killed one of her family members, attacked her son, and held her captive for four days repeatedly raping her and her daughter. The rebels forced Helene to wash clothes for them and cook meals. Helene is now barred from seeking refugee or asylum protection in the U.S. because she cooked and cleaned for the rebels while she was held captive (New York Times – April 3, 2006).
The International Rescue Committee is now running a program designed to get people to call or write their members of Congress regarding this egregious nonsense and to encourage action on revising the Patriot Act as it regards refugees. I've already sent a letter to Senator Cardin. Please, if you can take five minutes to send in a letter, the IRC provides one ready to send. Thanks.


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