Immigration Reform Must Ensure Refugee Protection
Washington, DC Responding to President Barack Obama's immigration reform speech at American University, Human Rights First today emphasized that any immigration reform package must reflect U.S. values and commitment to refugee protection.
"As the President works with lawmakers to address the many complex issues that will arise during a debate over comprehensive immigration reform, he must ensure that America upholds its longstanding commitment to refugee protection which he emphasized strongly just two weeks ago on the occasion of World Refugee Day," said Human Rights First's Annie Sovcik. "The Obama Administration and Congress should ensure safeguards to prevent arbitrary detention and protect refugees' access to fair asylum procedures."
Several bills pending in Congress already include key improvements to the asylum and refugee systems that should be incorporated into any immigration reform legislation. Human Rights First continues to urge President Obama and Congress to put into law the following measures:
- Eliminate the one-year asylum filing deadline that bars refugees with well-founded fears of persecution from asylum;
- Remove barriers that prevent some asylum seekers from receiving prompt review by the immigration courts of detention decisions so that these asylum seekers are not subject to prolonged and arbitrary detention;
- Clarify the "particular social group" basis and "nexus" requirements for asylum so that the asylum requests of vulnerable individuals are adjudicated fairly and consistently; and
- Protect refugees from inappropriate exclusion by refining the definitions of "terrorist activity" and "terrorist organization" so that U.S. immigration laws target actual terrorists, as opposed to hurting thousands of legitimate refugees who are not guilty of any wrongdoing and pose no threat to American security.
The group notes that the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 (S. 3113) and the Restoring Protection to Victims of Persecution Act (H.R. 4800) include provisions that would eliminate the inefficient filing deadline that has diverted government resources and led the United States to deny asylum to refugees with well-founded fears of persecution.