- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A Colorado congressman says a provision in a farm-subsidy law intended to protect churches where illegal aliens work as volunteers could help religious groups harbor terrorists.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, said the provision, part of a bill signed by the president last week, allows religious groups to legally protect and aid terrorists if they are volunteer missionaries or ministers.

He said the provision is dangerous and plans to introduce a bill to repeal it.

The sponsor of the provision, Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, said it merely protects churches from liability and doesn’t stop immigration officials from arresting illegal aliens. He said he will defend the provision if necessary.

Mr. Tancredo “is misrepresenting what this does,” Mr. Bennett said yesterday. “He’s trying to stir people up over something that is not an issue.”

Mr. Bennett said he added the language to the farm bill after it was brought to his attention by lawyers for the Mormon church, which uses countless volunteers and feared that it would be held liable if one was found to be an illegal alien.

Mr. Bennett said the law says that if an illegal alien volunteering for a church is picked up for illegal activities or illegal status, the church will not be held responsible.

“It does not in any way provide sanctuary, nor does it provide immunity for the church if the church gets involved in anything illegal itself,” Mr. Bennett said.

He said he added the provision to the agriculture appropriations bill because it was the first available legislation. The provision was checked with the Homeland Security Department and the House and Senate judiciary committees, Mr. Bennett said.

But Mr. Tancredo said, “A religious organization could actively conceal a terrorist who is an illegal alien, transporting him across the country and providing him with food and housing, and never break the law.”

Several foreign-born Muslim clerics have committed terrorism-related crimes in the U.S., including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

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