New Legislation Aims to Protect Refugees from Arbitrary Bar to Asylum, Reduce Inefficiency
Washington, DC Human Rights First is praising a new legislative effort to strengthen the U.S. asylum system by eliminating the one-year filing deadline for asylum applications. The Restoring Protection to Victims of Persecution Act (H.R. 4800), introduced today by Rep. Forney "Pete" Stark (D-CA/13th), Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA/8th) and Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA/23rd), will protect refugees from an arbitrary bar to asylum and reduce systemic inefficiencies caused by the deadline. Over 79,000 asylum applicants have had their asylum claims rejected, denied or delayed due to the filing deadline, including Human Rights First pro bono clients from China, Colombia, Iraq, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.
"The one year asylum filing deadline has led the U.S. to reject or deny the asylum requests of genuine refugees, even those who have proven that they face a probability of political, religious or other persecution if returned to their country of persecution," said Human Rights First's Eleanor Acer. "The deadline has also caused inefficiencies and delays in the asylum system, as significant governmental resources end up being diverted to address a range of technical issues relating to compliance with the deadline, dates of entry and eligibility for exceptions."
The Restoring Protection to Victims of Persecution Act would allow all applicants for asylum status in the United States to have their cases adjudicated on the merits of their claim, rather than barring them from protection due to their inability to prove that they meet a technical procedural requirement. Proving compliance with the deadline is often time-consuming for adjudicators and is an unnecessary waste of scarce government resources. This bill eliminates this needless bureaucratic burden by allowing credible, qualifying applications to be approved at the asylum office level, regardless of when they are filed.
"Many refugees who seek this country's protection miss this filing deadline," Acer noted. "They may not speak English, are not familiar with our legal system, do not have the resources to pay for a lawyer and arrive in this country still traumatized from their persecution. We have monitored the filing deadline's impact on refugees for many years now, and it is clear that despite the existence of exceptions to the filing deadline, many deserving refugees have been barred from asylum in the United States."
At the time of its passage, Congress committed to reevaluating the one-year filing deadline if it negatively impacted bona fide refugees. Human Rights First commends Representatives Stark, Moran and Watson for championing this legislation and their leadership in eliminating this arbitrary barrier to asylum protection.