For Immediate Release: May 19, 2010
Washington, DC Human Rights First today praised members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for convening a hearing on the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 (S. 3113), legislation the group notes would repair many of the most severe problems in the U.S. asylum and refugee systems and strengthen the U.S. commitment to providing refuge to victims of religious, political, ethnic and other forms of persecution.
“Despite this country’s strong tradition of protecting refugees from persecution, a barrage of laws, policies and practices have badly damaged our asylum system over the years,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “These flaws have led the United States to deny its protection to refugees who have fled from serious political, religious and other forms of persecution. Today’s hearing is a step in the right direction toward addressing these concerns and restoring our nation’s commitment to protecting vulnerable refugees.”
Human Rights First notes that asylum seekers are detained in the United States without basic due process safeguards, and their access to asylum has been limited because of technical filing deadlines, expedited screening procedures, overly-broad exclusion provisions and maritime interdiction polices. Even refugees with well-founded fears of persecution are denied asylum due to these flawed laws and policies. The Refugee Protection Act of 2010, championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and co-sponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Roland Burris (D-IL), addresses these concerns and includes provisions that would:
- 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 unnecessary detention;
- Ensure refugees are not deported back to persecution while they prepare their petitions for federal court review;
- Clarify the “particular social group” basis and “nexus” requirements for asylum so that the asylum requests of vulnerable individuals, including women fleeing gender-based persecution, are adjudicated fairly and consistently; and
- Protect refugees from inappropriate exclusion by refining the definitions of “terrorist activity” and “terrorist organization” so that our 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.
“Today’s hearing will shine a light on these serious problems and spark discussion that should lead the Senate to act on this important legislation,” said Acer. “Failure to act will only prolong and perpetuate the failed policies that currently plague our asylum and refugee systems.”
Read Human Rights First, “Renewing U.S. Commitment to Refugee Protection: Recommendations for Reform on the 30th Anniversary of the Refugee Act.” (PDF)
Read Human Rights First’s summary of the Refugee Protection Act. (PDF)
Read the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 (S. 3113). (PDF)