Bob Goodlatte: It’s not time to rethink the Libya ban

bob-goodlatte-afp2Protecting American citizens from terrorist threats both at home and abroad is a fundamental role of the federal government. However, despite Libya’s long history of unrest and ongoing terrorist threats coming from the country, the Executive Branch has proposed reversing a longstanding prohibition against Libyans entering the United States to work in aviation maintenance, flight operations, or to study or train in nuclear-related fields. This shift in policy is misguided and ignores reality.

Last fall, the House Judiciary Committee learned of the Administration’s plan to lift the prohibition, which was originally put in place in the 1980s after a wave of terrorist incidents involving Libyans. The Administration justifies lifting this ban by claiming the United States’ relationship with libya has since “normalized.” However, our relationship with libya is anything but normal. A year-and-a-half ago, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other State Department officials were killed when terrorists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and set it ablaze. The terror threat continues and numerous news reports document recent terrorist incidents coming from libya.

In order to shed more light on why the Administration thinks we should change our longstanding policy towards Libya, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security held a joint hearing this week. At the hearing, I questioned Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official Alan Bersin, who has recommended that the Administration lift this ban. We also heard from national security experts about the dangers of the Administration’s proposal. During the hearing, members learned that if this regulation was lifted, there would be nothing in place to prevent any Libyan from seeking to come to the United States for the purpose of becoming a pilot or nuclear scientist. Additionally, Bersin admitted that libya is dangerous and unstable, and he could provide no justification for lifting the ban on Libyans coming to the U.S. to study nuclear science.

It’s outrageous that the Administration is turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats that exist in libya today. We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of the Benghazi terrorist attacks and continue to face additional terrorist threats from libya. Nevertheless, the Administration is preparing to lift a longstanding ban that protects Americans and our interests. It just doesn’t make sense.

More answers are needed from the Administration on why they want to act now. Instead of reversing a 30 year precedent, I would encourage the Administration to turn their attention to bringing those behind the Benghazi attacks to justice. I will continue seeking these answers from the Administration and urge them not to change these immigration rules related to libya.

Bob Goodlatte represents the Sixth District in Congress.

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