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Home / 2006 / 03 / 15 / Human Rights First Calls on Senate Judiciary Committee to Reject Specter Proposal to Limit Access to Courts for Refugees Trying to Escape Persecution
March 15, 2006

Human Rights First Calls on Senate Judiciary Committee to Reject Specter Proposal to Limit Access to Courts for Refugees Trying to Escape Persecution

Judicial Oversight Could Be the Difference between Life and Death for Asylum Seekers

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorneys with Human Rights First (HRF), one of the nation’s leading pro bono legal representation organizations, today called on Senate Judiciary Committee members to preserve the right of refugees seeking asylum to access U.S. federal courts when appealing incorrect asylum decisions.

“For those who seek asylum in this country, a mistaken asylum denial can be the equivalent of a death sentence,” said Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First’s asylum program. “Judicial oversight and review is essential to ensure that this country does not deport a refugee back to a place where his life is in danger. Having a case properly reviewed could literally be the difference between life and death for an asylum seeker.”

The Judiciary Committee is currently debating Chairman Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) comprehensive immigration reform bill, legislation that HRF warns would limit federal court access for refugees who seek asylum in this country.

Contained in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (“CIRA”) of 2006, the controversial provisions would deprive the federal appeals courts of jurisdiction in asylum and immigration cases. It would transfer these cases, away from courts that have extensive expertise in these issues, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized court that hears appeals on patent and trademark cases, and has no institutional experience in asylum or immigration law. CIRA would require dismissal of these cases unless a single judge takes affirmative action within a set period to let the case go forward.

“These flawed provisions stack the deck against refugees, essentially setting the stage for asylum appeals to be wrongly dismissed,” Acer added.