Asylum News 48
U.N. Review of Refugee Detention? This month marked the international celebrations of Human Rights Day and International Migrants Day. Here in the United States, when arriving asylum seekers are detained in immigration jails, they are not given custody hearings or fair and independent procedures for seeking release. Because this is inconsistent with our country’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights First and other groups have urged the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit the United States to review the situation. The U.N. Working Group has already made a request to the United States to visit, and they are currently awaiting a formal invitation from the U.S. government before they can proceed. Human Rights First has drafted a sign-on letter to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Homeland Security urging them to extend the invitation to the U.N. Working Group as soon as possible. Click here for more information about signing on to the letter. Read HRF’s letter to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Read HRF’s Background Briefing on the Arbitrary Detention of Asylum Seekers Administration Finally Outlines Material Support Plan On December 6, Human Rights First and other members of Refugee Council USA attended a meeting with representatives from the National Security Council, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. At the meeting, officials outlined the administration’s plan for addressing the impact of the sweeping immigration law bar relating to “material support.” The administration announced that it plans to create a process, by the end of March 2007, to exercise its authority to “waive” application of the bar in asylum cases and individual refugee resettlement cases. It was not clear how the administration intends to address the cases of thousands of refugees and asylees already granted protection in this country whose adjustment applications have been put on hold because of the bar. In the resettlement process, the administration is examining ways to move more quickly with respect to group “waiver” designations. Rather than correcting the sweeping immigration definitions that are at the root of this problem, the administration has proposed a legislative change that would allow it to “waive” the bar for additional categories of individuals, specifically people who were members of or fought with armed groups – like the Montagnards who fought with U.S. troops in Vietnam. Under this plan, the waiver process is intended to be discretionary and not subject to review by the federal courts to correct. The proposal falls far short of providing the comprehensive and effective solution that Human Rights First and other members of Refugee Council USA believe is necessary. For more information about the material support bar, click here. Supreme Court Issues Decision in Lopez v. Gonzales On December 5, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Lopez v. Gonzales and found that the federal government was wrong to apply the “drug trafficking” aggravated felony ground to the state felony drug possession conviction at issue in the case. While the case did not involve asylum seekers in particular, a bad decision by the Supreme Court would have had a negative impact on some refugees, and on the interpretation of bars to refugee protection more generally. Human Rights First, represented pro bono by lawyers at the firm of Winston & Strawn LLP, had submitted an amicus brief that highlighted the fact that the government’s position in the case would have been inconsistent with U.S. obligations under international law, allowing refugees who had been convicted of minor possession offenses to be deported to persecution, in violation of the Refugee Convention. To read the Supreme Court decision in full, click here To read HRF’s amicus brief, click here To read detailed practice advisories for federal and state criminal defense attorneys, and for immigration lawyers and immigrant advocates, as well as background information on the case and the issues, go to the web site of the New York State Defenders Association Immigrant Defense Project Human Rights Day and International Migrants Day On December 18, groups around the world celebrated International Migrants Day, designated by the U.N. General Assembly as a day to recognize the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants. Click here for more information, including the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s speech for the occasion. On December 10, the international community observed Human Rights Day, which commemorates the day in 1948 when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Click here for more information, including the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s speech for the occasion.