A Hungry Child Knows No Politics: A Proposal to Reform Laws Governing Humanitarian Relief and 'Material Support' of Terrorism

June 25, 2008

ACS is pleased to distribute an Issue Brief by Ahilan T. Arulanantham, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, entitled  "A Hungry Child Knows No Politics": A Proposal for Reform of the Laws Governing Humanitarian Relief and 'Material Support' of Terrorism. In this Issue Brief, Mr. Arulanantham focuses on the material support laws, "a constellation of statutes found in the federal criminal code, immigration code, and elsewhere, whose ostensible purpose is to enhance our national security by stopping aid to terrorist groups." As the author explains, the unintended consequence of these extremely broad laws has been impeding, and in some cases, entirely preventing, the rendering of critical humanitarian assistance in certain areas of the world. Grounding his argument in his personal experience in Sri Lanka immediately after the tsunami of December 2004, Mr. Arulanantham demonstrates how the material support laws can undermine relief efforts. Mr. Arulanantham also discusses, and critiques, the arguments used by the federal government to justify these laws. Finally, the author concludes by offering multiple suggestions for how Congress could amend the material support laws to allow the discharging of humanitarian obligations without compromising national security. Mr. Arulanantham advises readers that "[w]e do not have to choose between national security and our commitment to help those who are suffering around the globe."

Read the full Issue Brief here: Arulanantham_Issue_Brief

By Ahilan T. Arulanantham