For Immediate Release: June 19, 2013
Washington, D.C. — In anticipation of World Refugee Day tomorrow, Human Rights First is urging Congress to renew America’s commitment to refugees by addressing some serious flaws in the U.S. asylum and immigration systems to better protect refugees who flee political, religious and other forms of persecution.
“The United States has a long tradition of leadership in the protection of men, women, and children who are forced to flee persecution, and communities across America will honor that tradition as they celebrate World Refugee Day tomorrow.” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “But our current asylum and immigration systems have some serious flaws, including a filing deadline bar that denies asylum to refugees with well-founded fears of persecution and a detention regime that holds some asylum seekers in jails and jail-like facilities without prompt court of the need for detention or the use of effective alternatives. These and other deficiencies not only have domestic consequences, they also undermine U.S. global leadership and set a poor example for other nations.”
Currently, U.S. policy does not always live up to American ideals. To honor the best traditions of the United States, Congress should pass immigration reform legislation that strengthens basic due process, fixes the nation’s flawed approach to immigration detention, and reaffirms America’s commitment to refugees. Human Rights Firsts recommends that such legislation include measures to:
- Eliminate the unfair and wasteful asylum filing deadline, which bars bona fide refugees from protection;
- Provide prompt immigration court review of detention and the use of cost-effective alternatives in place of detention that is not necessary.
- Require and support a fair and efficient adjudication process, including resources for immigration courts, expanded legal orientation presentations and improved access to counsel.
- Ensure that gender-based claims are properly recognized;
- Improve the fairness of the resettlement system and protect vulnerable individuals of humanitarian concern, including those who are at risk due to their work for the U.S. government; and
- Safeguard asylum seekers interdicted in international or U.S. waters from return to persecution.
According to Human Rights First, such reforms would not only honor America’s commitment to refugees, but would eliminate unnecessary spending and administrative resources. The U.S. detention system, for example, costs taxpayers $2 billion annually, despite the availability of less costly, less restrictive, and highly successful alternatives to detention programs.
Human Rights First recently released signed onto a letter to the bipartisan Senate “Gang of 8” with over 200 signatories in support of the refugee and asylum provisions in the immigration bill, S. 744 urging President Obama and Congress to ensure that any final immigration reform package includes measures to restore America’s commitment to providing refuge to those who seek protection from persecution. The signatories gathered by Human Rights First include national refugee protection organizations, faith based groups, state and local organizations, and legal experts on the U.S. asylum system, such as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and World Relief.
For more information, see Human Rights First’s recently released blueprints How to Repair the U.S. Asylum and Refugee Resettlement Systems and How to Repair the U.S. Immigration Detention System, or contact Brenda Bowser Soder at BowserSoderB@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.