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Broad New TRIG Exemption for Asylees and Refugees

By Jennie Guilfoyle

For those who work with asylees and refugees, the USCIS’s recent announcement of a broad new exemption from the terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds for refugee and asylee adjustment applicants is very welcome news.  Over the past ten years, as the terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds, often referred to as TRIG, have grown broader in scope, thousands of asylum and refugee status seekers, and asylees and refugees seeking adjustment and family reunification, have had their cases held up, sometimes for years. This ground of inadmissibility can be found at INA § 212(a)(3)(B). Asylees and refugees who have disclosed their actions as part of their asylum and refugee claims, and were granted asylum or refugee status, are still re-examined for TRIG at the time they apply for adjustment of status or for family reunification with their spouses and children.

As of May 31, 2012, there were 3,618 asylee and refugee adjustment applications and 431 I-730s on hold based on TRIG.  Thanks to this new exemption announced on August 17, 2012 in the Federal Register, many of these cases will soon be taken off hold and be adjudicated. That notice can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-08-17/html/2012-20278.htm.

Who is Covered

The USCIS notice allows exemptions from TRIG for persons granted asylum or refugee status prior to August 10, 2012 if they had engaged in any of the following:

 “material support to, or solicitation of funds, things or value, or members for, or military-type training from or on behalf of: groups that were, with certain exceptions, Tier III groups (groups that DHS believes fall under INA Section 212(a)(3)(B)(vi)(III)) at the time the activities in question took place. Not all Tier III groups are covered under this exemption. Any association with a Tier III group that, among other things, has EVER targeted U.S. interests or persons, or engaged in various serious violations of human rights law, including torture, genocide, or the use of child soldiers, is not included in this exemption. It also does not cover anyone who engaged in any act, other than "material support" that falls under the INA's expansive definition of "terrorist activity." 

The exemption also extends to people granted TPS, adjustment under NACARA of HRIFA, or a similar benefit other than a non-immigrant visa, before August 10, 2012.

In order to be eligible for this exemption, or any other TRIG exemption, an applicant must show that he or she:

 · is seeking a benefit under the INA and is otherwise eligible for that benefit;

  • has undergone and passed all relevant background and security checks;
  • has fully disclosed, in all relevant applications and interviews with the U.S. government, the nature and circumstances of each instance of solicitation, material support, or military-type training (and any other activity or association that falls under the scope of INA 212(a)(3)(B);
  • has not have knowingly provided material support to terrorist activities that targeted noncombatants, or U.S. citizens or interests;
  • · has not received training that poses a risk to the U.S;
  • · poses no danger to the safety and security of the U.S.;
  • · is not in removal proceedings or subject to a final order of removal, unless he or she is the beneficiary of an I-730 petition; and
  • · warrants an exemption in the totality of the circumstances.

Who is Not Covered

This exemption applies only to people already granted asylum or refugee status – it does not cover anyone currently applying for asylum, or for refugee status outside the United States. It also does not cover all the conduct for which DHS has authority to issue exemptions. Approximately 500 cases will remain on hold unless and until DHS exercises its exemption authority further.

What Happens Now

The USCIS announcement laid out the terms of the exemption, but cases will not be taken off hold and adjudicated until implementation memos to the field are cleared by DHS headquarters.  Because many of the cases currently on hold involve instances of “material support” to Tier III groups, this exemption will allow for the adjudication of many – though by no means all – of the cases currently on hold.