WASHINGTON – Legislation signed by the president Friday gives the Justice Department expanded powers to track down and deport aliens who were engaged in war crimes and human-rights abuses in their home countries.
The Anti-Atrocity Alien Deportation Act (search), first introduced in Congress five years ago, was part of the massive intelligence community overhaul bill that President Bush signed into law.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who sponsored the legislation in the Senate with Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said it updated the charter of Justice's Office of Special Investigations, which has been responsible for identifying Nazi war criminals who sought refuge in the country. The new law will allow Justice to investigate other war criminals as well.
"Now we can pursue the new generations of war criminals and human-rights abusers," Leahy said in a statement.
Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., the House sponsor with Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., said an estimated 800 to 1,000 war criminals and human-rights abusers seek refuge in the United States every year from such countries as Haiti, Honduras, North Korea, Rwanda and Cuba.
"The United States is currently home to many immigrants who fled torture in their home countries," Foley said in a statement. "What many people don't know is that their torturers also come here to live."
The measure expands the scope of aliens subject to deportation and denial of entry to those who have engaged in torture, genocide and religious persecution.
The Office of Special Investigations was set up in 1979 to prosecute and remove Nazi-era criminals. Justice Department spokesman Brian Sierra said the department will review the new law before deciding on staff changes.