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March 23, 2005

Asylum News 37

Proposed Law Will Hurt Refugees

U.S. Senate to Consider REAL ID Act Soon The United States Senate is poised to consider a bill that will put the lives of refugees at risk of further persecution. The bill, known as the REAL ID Act, will harm refugees fleeing torture, forced abortions, honor killings, and other horrific violence. The bill will make it much harder for refugees to prove that they qualify for asylum and remove safeguards that protect refugees from being sent back into the hands of their persecutors. The leadership of the House of Representatives has attached the REAL ID Act to an emergency spending bill in an attempt to push the Senate to accept these anti-refugee provisions without a meaningful chance for discussion or debate. Please contact your Senators and urge them to preserve our nation's commitment to protecting refugees: Ask them to keep the REAL ID Act out of the emergency spending bill. The REAL ID Act The REAL ID Act, if enacted into law, would undermine this country's commitment to protecting those who flee from political, religious and other kinds of persecution. The bill would:
  • Make it much harder for refugees to prove that they qualify for asylum; and
  • Prevent a U.S. federal court from stopping a refugee's deportation to the country where she fears harm while the court decides her case.
The bill not only expands an immigration judge's ability to deny asylum based on minor inconsistencies, like a torture survivor's failure to remember the date of his high school graduation; it also allows an immigration judge to deny protection to a woman who was raped by soldiers for her religious beliefs if she is unable to tell an armed male airport inspector about the rape, but later tells the judge. One of the bill's most extreme provisions allows an asylum seeker to be delivered back into the hands of her persecutors by barring a U.S. federal court from issuing a "stay" to prevent her deportation while her case is pending before the court. The REAL ID Act was passed by the House of Representatives as H.R. 418 on February 10, 2005.  Then, on March 16, the House attached it to an emergency spending bill relating to Iraq and to tsunami aid (H.R. 1268). This move puts additional pressure on the Senate to accept the REAL ID Act's anti-refugee provisions without sufficient consideration or debate. Please contact your Senators and urge them to preserve our nation's commitment to protecting refugees: Ask them to keep the REAL ID Act out of the emergency spending bill. What's Next? The Senate is expected to take up this bill as early as the first week of April.  It is extremely urgent that Senators hear immediately from constituents who are concerned about these anti-refugee provisions. Human Rights First calls upon the Senate to remove the anti-refugee language of the REAL ID Act from the emergency spending bill.  Human Rights First, together with a diverse group of faith-based, human rights, and refugee assistance organizations, opposes this bill because it would harm refugees and undermine this country's commitment to protecting those who flee from persecution. Go here to learn more about the REAL ID Act and its impact on refugees: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/asylum/asylum_10_sensenbr.asp Please encourage your colleagues to join us in this effort, by signing up for this newsletter.