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December 24, 2004

Asylum News 34

Anti-Refugee Provisions Struck from Final Intelligence Bill

New Battle Expected in 2005 Take Action! Thank Members of Congress for Saving Asylum Earlier this month, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the “Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004,” which enacts most of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.  As a result of a House-Senate compromise, a number of misguided provisions included in the House-passed version were dropped from the final bill.  Those provisions – which would have harmed refugees and resulted in sending people back to face torture – had not been recommended by the 9/11 Commission. The congressional leadership of both parties and the White House opposed efforts to include the anti-refugee provisions in the final legislation. We want to thank all of you who wrote in to urge that these harmful provisions be dropped. We also want to ask you to thank the bi-partisan group of Members of Congress who played a key role in opposing these provisions.  This group includes Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Representatives Jane Harman (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Chris Smith (R-NJ). Despite this victory for America’s commitment to protecting the persecuted, Human Rights First remains very concerned that House Members, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), will continue their efforts next year to advance provisions that target refugees and torture survivors. In fact, Chairman Sensenbrenner announced his intention to attach such a package onto the first “must pass” legislation introduced in January. We will need all of you to help us fight against these new attempts to pass legislation that will harm refugees. Additional Information and Background The provisions that had been included in the original House bill would have put the lives and safety of victims of torture and other persecution at risk. The bill would have allowed non-citizens — including those who are likely to face torture — to be deported without an immigration court hearing; would have made it much more difficult for genuine refugees to prove their asylum cases; and would have deprived victims of torture and other persecution of meaningful judicial review.  With your help, these provisions were struck from the final legislation. The final bill does include a requirement that the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress’ investigative arm, conduct a study and report, “to evaluate the extent to which weaknesses in the United States asylum system and withholding of removal system have been or could be exploited by aliens connected to, charged in connection with, or tied to terrorist activity.” In addition, the bill includes other immigration-related provisions and a provision authorizing a dramatic increase in the number of beds available for immigration detention. To learn more about the bill and opposition to it visit our website. Take Action!! Please thank Members of Congress for Saving Asylum