On March 26, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it would halt denials under the “material support” and “terrorism” bars in cases where waiver authority exists, but has not yet been implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS will review denials issued since December 26, 2007, and reopen cases that fall within broad categories that may be eligible for waivers. If reopened, the cases will be back on hold, where some have been for several years already.
A front page story in The Washington Post on Sunday, March 23, documented the denial of a green card to a translator for the U.S. Marine Corps. Human Rights First, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Human Rights Watch, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other groups have raised concern with U.S. officials about these denials and the continued failure of DHS to fully address the impact of the “terrorism” bars on refugees and asylum seekers.
Read the HRF background memo for attorneys
On March 5, 2008, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants submitted his report on the human rights of migrants in the U.S. to the U.N. Human Rights Council. The report addresses the ways in which U.S. detention and deportation policies are inconsistent with international human rights laws.
The Special Rapporteur recommends that the U.S. should ensure that decisions to detain are promptly reviewed by an independent court, and that asylum seekers are given access to custody determination hearings before immigration judges.
On March 10, 2008, the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge issued new interim guidance to facilitate pro bono legal services. The new memorandum calls for local pro bono liaison meetings, encourages judges to be flexible in scheduling and encourages pre-hearing conferences and other measures.
Human Rights First, with input from a group of legal and pro bono experts, provided recommendations to the immigration courts (EOIR) in connection with a review of the immigration court system. While the new guidance should be helpful to pro bono attorneys, it does not include several important provisions.
The guidance is available for comment for 60 days before being finalized.
On March 11, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia, in a joint hearing with the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, heard testimony on “Neglected Responsibilities: The U.S. Response to the Iraqi Refugee Crisis.” Witnesses included Ambassador James Foley, the Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees and Lori Scialabba of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
For more information on the hearing, including links to testimony, click here