Asylum-Seeker Can’t Shake Terrorist Ties

CHICAGO (CN) – A Pakistani man who received death threats for leaving a terrorist political party that he joined as a boy cannot apply for asylum in the United States, the 7th Circuit ruled.
     Sami Ullah Khan’s parents were immigrants to Pakistan when it was partitioned from the British Indian Empire in 1947, which resulted in the largest mass migration in history, as Muslims from India moved to Pakistan and Hindus from Pakistan moved to India.
     New migrants to Pakistan formed a political party, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), in response to perceived oppression from locals.
     Khan joined the party when he was 14 or 15, passed out flyers, and attended meetings, but left the movement when it became increasingly violent.
     He joined a more peaceful spinoff group, MQM-Haqiqi, but eventually left it as well.
     Khan’s disavowal of violent politics made him a target, and he was repeatedly attacked by members of the first party and received death threats. Khan says he was kidnapped and tortured twice.
     He fled to the United States and asked for asylum.
     The government opposed it, on the grounds that he was once a member of Mohajir Qaumi, a group listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, and an immigration judge agreed.
     On appeal, the 7th Circuit found that Khan had a compelling defense – that he did not know the Mohajir Qaumi Movement authorized terrorism while he was a member – but he failed to preserve this argument for review.
     “Khan was about as low as one could be in the organization,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote for the three-judge panel. “And recall that by at least one historian’s account, MQM-H leaders were running a campaign to convince low-level members that [the original party] MQM-A was the terrorist faction of the movement. It’s hardly surprising that they could convince a teenager.”
     But the two sentences in his petition raising this issue before the immigration board did not fully articulate a defense, the court ruled.
     “The exhaustion requirement is not just an empty formality; it exists in part to prevent error by appellate courts. We’ve identified the more nuanced knowledge question here in order to flag it for future cases, but we might have missed something,” Sykes said. “On the present record, labeling Khan a terrorist to prevent him from remaining in the United States with his American citizen wife is troubling, but we cannot ignore the exhaustion requirement, especially not for an argument raised for the first time on a petition for review from a motion to reconsider, where our deference to the BIA [Board of Immigration Appeals] is at its peak.”

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