For Immediate Release: June 20, 2011
Washington, DC — In commemoration of World Refugee Day, Human Rights First urges reforms to the U.S. asylum and detention systems to better protect refugees who flee political, religious, and other persecution – and also announces a celebration of the service rendered by individuals around the country who are committed to welcoming and protecting refugees.
“The United States has a long tradition of support for the protection of men, women, and children from all over the world who are forced to flee political, religious, and other persecution,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Unfortunately, in recent years new laws and policies have prevented genuine refugees from receiving asylum in the United States, and have left asylum seekers and other civil immigration law detainees in prison uniforms in prisons and prison-like facilities around the country, for months or longer, at a substantial cost to U.S. taxpayers. Congress and the administration should renew U.S. commitment to refugee protection by enacting the Refugee Protection Act, re-committing to detention reform, and taking other steps to improve the refugee and asylum systems.”
Human Rights First urges the administration and Congress to better protect refugees from persecution, including by:
- Enacting the Refugee Protection Act of 2011 (S.1202/H.R.2185), which would eliminate the asylum filing deadline that bars refugees with well-founded fears of persecution from asylum and would repair some of the most severe problems in the U.S. asylum and refugee systems. For more information about the bill – which was introduced in advance of World Refugee Day in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and co-sponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D-MA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) – see our fact sheet.
- Re-committing to reform the immigration detention system by ending the use of jail and jail-like facilities to detain asylum seekers and other immigrants, by reforming release procedures to ensure immigration court review of detention decisions, and by expanding the effective use of alternatives to detention to prevent unnecessary detention and its costs. Read our 2009 report “U.S. Detention of Asylum Seekers: Seeking Protection, Finding Prison.”
- Making other reforms necessary to bring the United States into compliance with its commitments under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol. Read Human Rights First’s list of proposed pledges for the U.S. government, and our 2010 blueprint “Renewing U.S. Commitment to Refugee Protection: Recommendations for Reform on the 30th Anniversary of the Refugee Act.”
On Wednesday, June 22, Human Rights First will co-sponsor a reception in Washington, DC, to celebrate the contributions of refugees and service providers. The public event will take place from 5 to 7 pm in the Rayburn House Office Building. It will feature a photo exhibition and remarks from His Eminence Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., and from former Human Rights First asylum client Demissie Abebe, founder and executive director of TASSC (Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition) International. The event’s bi-partisan Congressional “honorary host” committee includes Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA/28th), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL/21st), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA/16th), Frank Wolf (R-VA/10th), Gary Peters (D-MI/9th), Jim McGovern (D-MA/3rd), and John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI/14th).
To view photographs of refugees and service providers from all over the country, which will be on public display on Wednesday in the Rayburn House Office Building Foyer in Washington, DC, click here.
To read Human Rights First’s statement welcoming the introduction of the Refugee Protection Act of 2011, click here.
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