Republicans often use immigration as a wedge to kill initiatives and policies they don’t like, but Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) most recent antics are quite a stretch. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee put Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. in the hot seat over the decision to hold the trials of alleged 9/11 plotters on American soil.
Holder seemed baffled when Cornyn started drilling him on whether alleged 9/11 plotters will have an immigration status or be able to apply for asylum:
CORNYN: When the detainees come to the United States, will they have some immigration status?
HOLDER: I am not an immigration expert, I do not know what their status might be. I am confident however, given the fact that they would be here under the supervision of and as a result of being charged in a federal court that we would be able to detain them, that we would be able to hold them as we would do with anybody who has been charged with such serious crimes.
CORNYN: Are you aware of any more to their ability to claim asylum, or argued that they should not be able to be removed from the U.S. because of the convention against torture?
HOLDER: Again, I am not an immigration expert. One can be paroled in the United State solely for this purpose, but there’s no right to be here after[...]
CORNYN: Will you acknowledge that it’s possible — or let me ask you if you’d like into it — whether if a detainee claims an immigration status by virtue of their presence on U.S. soil it will allow them to immediately trigger tandem administrative and federal judicial immigration proceedings?
The National Immigration Law Center tells the Wonk Room that detainees will be brought to the U.S. but kept in custody on criminal charges — without an immigration status. In the unlikely event that they are acquitted, they could still be kept in custody and put in removal proceedings.
It’s unlikely that suspected 9/11 plotters would be granted asylum — let along a green card — even if they tried. Syracuse University points out that there’s a common misconception that the U.S. asylum system is abused by people who endanger national security. However, “asylum applications are subject to stringent review procedures by adjudicators in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and to rigorous background and security checks.” Terrorism concerns essentially lead to an automatic disqualification from asylum and immediate deportation.
In yesterday’s congressional testimony, Holder indicated that he was “confident justice would be delivered to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other accused plotters of the 9/11 attacks.”