Washington, D.C. – The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently approved a final regulation to lift a longstanding prohibition on Libyans coming to the U.S. to attend flight school, to work in aviation maintenance or flight operations, or to study or seek training in nuclear science. The final regulation has been approved by OMB and can be signed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The prohibition was originally put in place in the 1980s after the wave of terrorist incidents involving Libyans. Not even two years after the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, the Obama Administration justifies lifting this ban by claiming the United States’ relationship with Libya has since improved. However, the terror threat continues and numerous news reports document recent terror-related activities coming from Libya. Recently, the employees at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli were evacuated due to violence between rival militias near the facility. Since then, many foreign governments have closed their embassies in Libya and evacuated staff as the violence has spread throughout the country.
Earlier this year, 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 on this issue. Mr. Alan Bersin, who testified on behalf of DHS, promised to provide documents that are required under the regulation’s review process to the House Judiciary Committee. However, these documents were never provided to the Committee. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) issued the statements below criticizing the Administration’s policy reversal.
Chairman Goodlatte: “The Obama Administration is turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats that exist in Libya today by carelessly forging ahead with its plan to allow Libyan pilots and nuclear scientists to study in the United States. Just weeks ago, Americans working at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli were evacuated due to rival rebel groups battling each other for control of the area. And less than two years ago, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked by terrorists, leaving four Americans killed.
“The House Judiciary Committee has repeatedly sought information about the Administration’s policy reversal but political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have stonewalled the Committee’s requests and have not articulated why it is in Americans’ best interests to change policy. Given the ongoing volatility in Libya, it is unconscionable and completely irresponsible that the Administration plans to lift a longstanding policy that protects Americans and our national security from threats in the region. I urge Secretary Johnson to stop this dangerous plan from taking effect.”
Subcommittee Chairman Gowdy: “The burden of proof for advocating a change in the status quo lies with the Administration. Is post-revolutionary Libya secure enough to change the rules? Why now? What evidence does the Administration have to assert the relationship between Libya and the US has indeed normalized? It is extremely concerning that DHS is moving forward with these plans, but has not provided information on the policy change despite repeated requests from Members.”
Congressman Chaffetz: “It is unbelievable that this Administration is willing to put Americans in harm’s way by lifting a decades-old security ban on a country challenged by instability. This makes no sense. None. Recent events – such as the 2012 attack on our U.S. Consulate in Benghazi – do not indicate a nation where things have been ‘normalized.’ Rather they seem to be ingredients of a failed state in the making. Training Libyans in nuclear sciences and aviation maintenance overseas can be an effective alternative. I encourage DHS to consider options that ensure the safety and prosperity of both countries involved.”