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September 01, 2006

Asylum News 45

Material Support: New Report and Senate Hearing libertyOn September 26, Human Rights First issued a report entitled “Abandoning the Persecuted: Victims of Terrorism and Oppression Barred from Asylum.” The report outlines the impact of the “material support” bar on the U.S. asylum system and on refugees who seek asylum in the United States. It includes recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security, the Departments of Justice and State, and the U.S. Congress. As detailed in the report, the overly broad bar regarding “material support” to terrorism has adversely affected many refugees who are actually the victims of terrorism and oppression. Many refugees have had their asylum requests denied or relegated to a long-term administrative limbo. The time that they have spent in immigration jails – or separated from their families – has been prolonged by months or even years. To read the report, click here To read the Associated Press article, click here (9/26/06) On September 27, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship will hold a hearing on the U.S. refugee resettlement program, with an emphasis on the ongoing problems with the “material support” bar to resettlement. Father Ken Gavin of Jesuit Refugee Service will testify on behalf of the Refugee Council USA. Material Support: Second State Department Waiver On August 30, the U.S. State Department exercised its discretionary authority to waive the material support bar for a second set of Burmese Karen living in refugee camps in Thailand, allowing them to be resettled in the United States if they meet the other eligibility requirements. The August waiver expanded the May 2006 waiver, which had allowed for the resettlement of a subset of Karen refugees in one particular camp in Thailand, to cover Karen refugees at other camps in Thailand. These waivers, however, still leave many vulnerable Karen refugees at risk. The State Department’s press release can be found at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/71680.htm Material Support: Litigation on Refugee Victims of Terrorist Duress On August 24, the Board of Immigration Appeals held a rare oral argument in a case involving the question of whether a refugee can be denied asylum when any support he gave was the result of duress. The case concerns a fisherman from Sri Lanka who had been kidnapped by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers. The Department of Homeland Security and the immigration judge have taken the view that the ransom money the fisherman paid constitutes “material support” to the LTTE, preventing the refugee from receiving asylum in the United States. Human Rights First submitted an amicus brief to the Board, and Refugee Protection Program staff attorney Anwen Hughes participated in the oral argument. To read or cite to a copy of this amicus brief, which explains why duress is an implicit defense to this bar, click here Immigration Enforcement Proposals in Congress A barrage of immigration enforcement bills have been proposed in the final days before Congress adjourns on September 29. These proposals contain some provisions that would adversely affect asylum seekers, including extensions of the time that they spend in immigration jails. Learn more from Rights Working Group and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Guidance for Attorneys: The Post-9/11 Asylum System In the years since September 11, the challenges that face those who flee from persecution and seek refuge in the United States have multiplied. So, too, have the challenges that face the attorneys who represent these refugees in the U.S. asylum system. New laws, new policies, shifts in practice, and bureaucratic changes abound. Human Rights First Refugee Protection Program director Eleanor Acer and staff attorney Anwen Hughes review the post-9/11 asylum system and offer advice to attorneys representing asylum seekers in the current environment in the American Bar Association’s summer 2006 issue of the Journal of the Section of Litigation. Click here to read the full article. New Job Hunt Options for Refugees and Other Immigrants Upwardly Global is a nonprofit organization that helps refugees, asylees, and other immigrants with professional backgrounds to rebuild their careers in the United States. Upwardly Global staff work with unemployed and underemployed foreign-born professionals to conduct thoughtful and targeted job searches. They also nurture relationships with employers and help them recruit, hire, and train talented immigrant professionals. Eligible immigrants must be legally authorized to work in the U.S. without employer sponsorship. This San Francisco-based organization recently opened offices in New York and is actively recruiting clients and employers in the New York City area. For further information, see www.upwardlyglobal.com. Human Rights First Annual Dinner The 2006 Human Rights First Awards Dinner will take place on Monday, October 16, at Chelsea Piers in New York City. This year, Human Rights First will honor Munir and Suciwati of Indonesia and the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) of Cuba. The program will also feature the stories of clients of the Asylum Legal Representation Program. For more information, click here. To make reservations, please call 212-845-5276 or email nuttallb@humanrightsfirst.org.