His lawyer, Parastoo Zahedi, said she has filed case in federal court to force U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process Assadi's green card application, but now hopes the government will act on its own.
"In the past, the minute your name was associated with a (terrorist) organization you were being punished," Zahedi said. "Not every act is a terrorist act and you can't just lump everyone together."
The Homeland Security Department said in a statement that the rule change, which was announced last week and not made in concert with Congress, gives the government more discretion, but won't open the country to terrorists or their sympathizers. People seeking refugee status, asylum and visas, including those already in the United States, still will be checked to make sure they don't pose a threat to national security or public safety, the department said.
In the past, the provision has been criticized for allowing few exemptions beyond providing medical care or acting under duress. The change now allows officials to consider whether the support was not only limited but potentially part of "routine commercial transactions or routine social transactions."
"Refugee applicants are subject to more security checks than any other category of traveler to the United States," Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard said. "Nothing in these exemptions changes the rigorous, multilayered security screening we do."
The change does not specifically address "freedom fighters" who may have fought against an established government, including members of rebel groups who have led revolts in Arab Spring uprisings.
In late 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Services said about 4,400 affected cases were on hold as the government reviewed possible exemptions to the rule. It's unclear how many of those cases are still pending.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the rule change will help people he described as deserving refugees and asylum-seekers.