In an anti-climatic end to a three-year legal battle, the Department of Homeland Security agreed that Mosab Hassan Yousef should be granted asylum in the United States, reports the San Diego Union Tribune. Mr. Yousef is the son of a founding member of Hamas. He converted from Islam to Christianity, spied for Israel, and wrote a book about his experience. On his blog, Mr. Yousef desceibes what happened and thanks his supporters. “Honestly, I am still in shock,” he writes.
In a 15-minute hearing before the San Diego Immigration Court yesterday, the DHS attorney indicated that ”There has been a change in the department,” and told the Judge that DHS would no longer oppose Mr. Yousef’s application for asylum. DHS originally opposed the application because Mr. Yousef allegedly gave “material support” to Hamas, a terrorist organization. Mr. Yousef claimed that any “support” he gave to Hamas was solely for the purpose of determining the group’s plans and foiling attacks against Israelis and Palestinians.
During the course of his legal ordeal, Mr. Yousef because a cause celebre for pro-Israel groups, as well as certain Israeli officials and members of Congress, all of whom claimed (quite credibly) that his actions saved many lives. Recently, a former Israeli security agent arrived in the U.S. to testify on Mr. Yousef’s behalf, and several members of Congress wrote letters to the Immigration Judge supporting his application. Given the evidence–at least the publicly available evidence–it seems clear that the decision yesterday was the right result. Mr. Yousef does not appear to be a terrorist, and he would certainly face persecution or death if he returned to the Palestinian territory.
One interesting side note, many people, including some members of Congress, complained loudly about President Obama’s aunt, whose case was reopened and who was recently granted asylum. They speculated–without any evidence–that President Obama somehow improperly influenced the asylum process to help his relative. I wonder if these same members of Congress will complain about their fellow Congresspeople who wrote to the IJ in Mr. Yousef’s case. These Congresspeople clearly intended to influence the Judge and the DHS attorney, and the case ended with the result they were seeking. Personally, I don’t see any evidence of improper behavior in either case, but one would hope that if a Congressperson opposes improper outside interference with one case, he should oppose it in another.
The Need for Reform
Finally, this case illustrates the need for Congress to reform the law on "material support." Mr. Yousef is hardly the only person to be labeled a "terrorist" under this broad provision. Others who have been forced on pain of death to provide food and other supplies to terrorist groups are subject to the same problems. The members of Congress who supported Mr. Yousef should consider supporting the Refugee Protection Act, a bill that would modify the definition of "material support" to ensure that innocent asylum seekers and refugees are not unfairly denied protection as a result of the material support and terrorism bars. The bill would, of course, continue to bar those with legitimate ties to terrorist activity from entry into the United States. Perhaps Mr. Yousef's case will provide some momentum to this worthy bill.