Asylum News 57
Update: Material Support On September 19, Human Rights First Senior Counsel Anwen Hughes testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, on “The ‘Material Support’ Bar: Denying Refuge to the Persecuted?” Other witnesses included Paul Rosenzweig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy for the Department of Homeland Security; Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, Chairman of the International Policy Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and “Mariana,” a refugee from Colombia. At the hearing, several Senators closely questioned Mr. Rosenzweig about the pace of progress on the material support issue. There is still no process for asylum seekers to seek exemptions if their cases are pending before the immigration courts or the federal courts. Mr. Rosenzweig confirmed that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has begun granting “exemptions” to Colombian refugees and eligible asylum seekers who were victims of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and that exemptions will be extended to Iraqi refugees who were victims of armed groups that have not been designated or listed as “terrorist organizations.” Legislation has been proposed that would expand the ability of the Departments of Homeland Security and State to grant waivers to those affected by some of the overly broad bars. To read the testimony of Ms. Hughes, Mr. Rosenzweig and the other witnesses, or to watch the web cast, click here. For more information about the “material support” bar, click here. Update: Iraqi Refugee Crisis Earlier this month, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, expressed his concern about the “major bottlenecks” delaying the pace of resettlement for Iraqi refugees. He urged many improvements, including that DHS “at least double” the number of officers sent to interview Iraqi refugees and that the U.S. conduct “in-country” processing for Iraqis who work for the United States. To read the Washington Post article (9/17/07), click here. Just last night, members of the U.S. Senate unanimously endorsed bipartisan legislation that will help bring Iraqi refugees – including those who are at risk because of their work for the United States – to safety in this country. The proposed legislation, offered as an amendment to the Department of Defense Reauthorization bill, was originally introduced by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) and included 15 bipartisan cosponsors. Legislators expect the Kennedy-Smith amendment to remain on the Defense Reauthorization bill as it moves through final congressional passage and eventual approval from the White House. The proposed legislation contains the following provisions:
- 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Iraqis who worked directly with the U.S. government and are in danger;
- Direct access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (RAP) for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government, contractors, NGOs, and media;
- Direct RAP access for designated Iraqi religious minorities with family in the United States;
- Protection or immediate removal from Iraq of SIV applicants who are in danger;
- A system that will allow Iraqi refugees to interview for resettlement in Iraq and in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt;
- New Minister Counselors in Iraq and throughout the region who will coordinate refugee processing;
- Requirements for the Department of Homeland Security to report on plans to improve the resettlement process;
- Allowances for Motions to Re-open for Iraqi asylum seekers whose claims for refuge were denied by immigration judges based solely on changed country conditions on or after March 1, 2003.
The amendment also calls on the Secretary of State to provide assistance to the countries in the region hosting Iraqi refugees. To learn more and to read recent press relating to this issue, click here. Update: Detention Julie Myers, who has served as Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since her January 2006 recess appointment by President Bush, was questioned by Senators at a confirmation hearing on September 12, 2007. Assistant Secretary Myers was questioned closely about the health and treatment of immigrants in detention. To read Senators’ questions and her responses, click here. When asked about the parole of asylum seekers, Assistant Secretary Myers indicated that ICE will soon announce a policy that allows asylum seekers who are not deemed a threat to be paroled, rather than held in detention facilities. In a written submission, she stated that “the intent of this ICE policy directive is to promote consistent and high-quality parole decision making … while preserving our agency’s need to make these discretionary decisions on a case-by-case basis.” For the complete quote, click here (see p. 11). U Visa Interim Regulations Issued The Department of Homeland Security has issued interim regulations, effective October 17, 2007, regarding nonimmigrant U visa applications. U visas may be available to victims of certain criminal activity who assist government officials in investigating or prosecuting such criminal activity. To read the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services press release, click here. To read the announcement in the Federal Register, click here. HRF Annual Dinner The 2007 Human Rights First Awards Dinner will take place on Monday, October 15, at Chelsea Piers in New York City. This year, Human Rights First will honor Iranian women’s rights activist Fariba Davoodi Mohajer, and will also welcome General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC (ret.), Major General Fred E. Haynes, USMC (ret.), and other distinguished military leaders. Human Rights First will also announce the recipients of this year’s Marvin Frankel Award for outstanding pro bono work.