Left & Right Raise Refugee Concerns:

Today's Washington Post has a story about how some conservatives are waking up to the unintended consequences of efforts to keep potential terrorists and their supporters out of the country.

Conservatives who supported President Bush's reelection have joined liberal groups in expressing outrage over his administration's broad use of anti-terrorism laws to reject asylum for thousands of people seeking refuge from religious, ethnic and political persecution.

The critics say the administration's interpretation of provisions mandating denial of asylum to individuals who give "material support" to terrorist groups is so broad that foreigners who fought alongside U.S. forces in wars such as Vietnam can be denied asylum on the grounds that they provided aid to terrorists.

What these conservatives are discovering is that the problems of bureaucratic tunnel vision are not limited to "liberal" programs. What some conservatives decry as "ludicrous" applications of the relevant laws are an extension of the relevant legal provisions by a bureaucracy that has every incentive to keep potentially unwanted people out, even at the expense of not letting desirable refugees in.

The story reports that incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy has expressed interest in examining the issue.

If there are hearings in the Senate, Paul Rosenzweig, chairman of a Homeland Security advisory committee, could be called to testify. He said he is prepared to answer questions about why the department has not acted on complaints to grant waivers to people who, some say, clearly are not terrorists.

"I will completely own up to wishing we had done more, but it's a big department," he said. In the past year, the department broadened a waiver that allowed more ethnic Burmese refugees into the country, and it is in the process of broadening a waiver for Hmong and Montagnard guerrillas who fought for the United States.

The United States must be careful to not allow terrorists into the country, while fulfilling its promise to harbor the persecuted, Rosenzweig said. "It's a difficult problem," he said. "It isn't as easy as some might wish to balance the security risks that come with this and the humanitarian impulse."