October 21, 2004
Asylum News 32
House Republicans Try to Use 9/11 Recommendations Bill to Enact Provisions That Will Harm RefugeesUrge Senate and House Conferees to Support Senate Bill Over the next few days, a group of Senators and House Members are meeting to resolve dramatic differences between the bi-partisan 9/11 Recommendations bill passed by the Senate and the controversial "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act" passed by the House of Representatives. Their deliberations will affect the lives and safety of victims of persecution, torture and terror who seek refuge in this country. The House bill, despite its name, contains provisions that were not recommended by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. Several of these provisions will put the lives and safety of victims of torture and other persecution at risk. The bill will allow non-citizens — including those who are likely to face torture — to be deported without an immigration court hearing; will make it much more difficult for genuine refugees to prove their asylum cases; and will deprive victims of torture and other persecution of meaningful judicial review. As the Senate and House Conferees are meeting now, it is urgent that they hear TODAY from people who are concerned about the impact of these provisions on refugees. Widespread Opposition and Concern about House Provisions on Asylum Opposition to these provisions is widespread. A wide range of faith-based, human rights and other organizations oppose these provisions — including Human Rights First, the American Jewish Committee, the Cuban American National Foundation, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The 9/11 Commission itself, in a letter issued yesterday (October 21), stressed that the immigration provisions "are not Commission recommendations" and stated that "we believe strongly that this bill is not the right occasion for tackling controversial immigration and law enforcement recommendations." Also, just yesterday the White House confirmed in a public letter that: "The Administration strongly opposes the overbroad expansion of expedited removal authorities in HR 10 (section 3007) and has concerns about the provision addressing asylum (section 3008); these sections should be modified or dropped altogether." Anti-Refugee Provisions The Provisions of HR 10 will make it much more difficult for genuine refugees to win asylum and would lead the U.S. to return people to suffer torture and other persecution. For instance, the House bill:
- Allows genuine refugees to be denied asylum if the State Department fails to document the problems they face, if a prior statement is viewed as inconsistent, if they do not submit corroborating evidence, and if they cannot prove the "central reason" they were targeted by persecutors.
- Will eliminate "stays of removal" when a case is being reviewed by a federal court - so that people in danger of torture or other persecution can be returned to the country that will harm them while their cases are pending before a federal court. When a federal court rules that the person is entitled to protection, it may be too late since the person may already have been detained, tortured or killed by the repressive regime that the U.S. sent him back to.
- Expand the use of a summary deportation process known as expedited removal, depriving non-citizens of immigration court hearings if they have been in the U.S. for up to five years. Theprovision could affect battered women, Cuban nationals, and families with long-standing ties to the U.S.
- Encourage U.S. immigration authorities to return people found to be in danger of torture to the very country that is likely to torture them and allow the deportation of people to places without functioning governments even though they may be plagued with human rights abuses.
Update — Rodi Alvarado and Gender-Based Asylum Action Item: Take Action to Protect Women Refugees! Washington Post Op-Ed: "Grant This Woman Asylum!" As you know, Attorney General John Ashcroft is poised to rule on the asylum case of Rodi Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who fled ten years of brutal violence at the hands of her husband after her country's government ignored her repeated requests for help. A denial of Ms. Alvarado's claim would not only affect her fate, but could prevent other women who have fled from violence, sexual slavery, honor killings, and other persecution from receiving protection in the United States. On October 8, 2004, an op-ed piece entitled "Grant This Woman Asylum!" written by Cory Smith of Human Rights First and Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America was published in The Washington Post. The op-ed calls on Attorney General Ashcroft to grant Rodi Alvarado asylum. Nearly 40,000 people have written to the Attorney General so far. Read the op-ed.