U.S. House Panel Ponders Ban on Hamas Members’ Entry to U.S.

A congressional subcommittee is considering legislation that would ban members of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas from entering the United States.

Hamas is part of “a sophisticated and highly organized terrorist network in the United States,” Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.) said in a statement Wednesday before the House Judiciary subcommittee on international law, immigration and refugees.

Hamas has been waging a war in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against the Middle East peace process. It has recently come out vehemently, and violently, against the peace accord signed here in September.

The bill, which was introduced by Deutsch last March, would consider all Hamas members to be terrorists. Federal immigration law prohibits terrorists from entering the United States.

Mary Ryan, assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department, testified against that provision of the bill that declares all Hamas members terrorists and thus bars any Hamas member from entering the United States.

Not all Hamas members are considered terrorists because Hamas engages in social welfare activities, including providing economic, educational and medical assistance to Palestinians, Ryan said at the hearing.

The spokesperson said the State Department stands by its longstanding position, supported by existing immigration law, that only persons directly involved in terrorist activity are prohibited from U.S. soil.

The alleged terrorist activities of Hamas and other Islamic fundamentalist groups have become a source of concern both in Israel and the United States.

Israel deported more than 400 Islamic fundamentalists in late 1992 for suspected terrorist activities, many of whom had ties to Hamas.

“Hamas has found a friendly U.S. community in which to operate and fund-raise promoting its acts of violence,” Deutsch said.

The State Department announced in February 1993 that for the first time, its annual terrorism report would include a section on Hamas. The following month, the United States government announced that it had severed all contacts with the organization.

Two other bills that would exclude members of terrorist organizations from the United States, each sponsored by Rep. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), also were discussed at the hearings.

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