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Immigration News 2014: US Loosens Rules for Asylum Seekers

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First Posted: Feb 09, 2014 04:16 PM EST
syrian refugee
(Photo : Flickr / FreedomHouse)

Following the president's remarks on immigration reform during the State of the Union, the federal government has enacted some changes to its immigration rules as they apply to asylum seekers. This comes as a result of the increased numbers of Syrian refugees asking for asylum, as well as the government's new stance on those who provided "limited material support" to terrorist organizations and rebel groups.

According to the AP, a revision had been made to immigration rules after 9/11. These changes barred anyone who had aided a terrorist group in some manner aside from being coerced or for medical treatment. The change applied to those who wished to enter the country and those already in who wanted to change their immigration status.

This change in policy comes in the wake of the Syrian civil war, which has seen millions displaced and has prompted 135,000 Syrians to apply for asylum in the United States, Reuters reports. Of these the U.S. only allowed 31 in the past year. Many of the refugees were denied asylum because of connections with various rebel groups within Syria, though, as reported, some connections are trivial at best.

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The changes will allow federal officials to investigate whether the support was merely limited but part of "routine commercial transactions or routine social transactions." However, the AP adds, the new policy does not address the issue of "freedom fighters," which would include many rebels who have fought in the Syrian conflict.  

Democrats are pleased with the changes, which will help refugees and asylum-seekers. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said, "The existing interpretation was so broad as to be unworkable," and barred people for no rational reason. But, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans fear the federal government has put people's lives at risk by loosening regulations meant to protect against terrorism.

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