Congress Urged to Support Refugee Protection Act of 2016
New York City—Human Rights First urges members of Congress to support the Refugee Protection Act of 2016, a bill that reaffirms the United States’ commitment to refugees and strengthens legal safeguards for those seeking protection from persecution and violence. The organization applauds Senator Leahy and Representative Lofgren for their leadership on this bill and for their commitment to the America’s legacy as a haven for refugees.
“A strong, effective and fair asylum and refugee resettlement process is more important than ever as the United States looks to lead, and encourage other countries to do more, to address the global refugee crisis,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “When the United States falters on its commitment, refugees worldwide suffer.”
The bill would improve the efficiency, fairness and effectiveness of the U.S. asylum and resettlement processes, and strengthen protection for refugees. U.S. global leadership on the protection of refugees is crucial, as demonstrated by President Obama’s decision to host a world Leaders’ Summit on Refugees on September 20, and the U.S. asylum and resettlement systems should be a model for other countries. The Refugee Protection Act of 2016 fixes many of the areas in which U.S. laws and policies are not living up to the standards the United States has set for itself and, by extension, the bar it sets for the rest of the world.
The U.S. asylum system has become increasingly inefficient due to a barrage of technical requirements, impediments to protection and flawed policies—like increasing use of detention—that have led to delays and injustices in the U.S. asylum system.
Refugees who seek protection in the United States face a barrage of technical requirements, impediments to protection and flawed policies as they struggle to secure protection through the U.S. asylum system. Refugees with well-founded fears of persecution often have their requests for asylum denied due to the arbitrary filing deadline on asylum applications. Many are held for months or longer in detention facilities with conditions that resemble prisons, due to the lack of fair and effective release processes or at least prompt immigration court review of detention. Many are forced to pursue their applications for asylum without legal representation. Only 14 percent of individuals in detention obtain counsel, compared to 69 percent of individuals who have been released to pursue their claims outside of detention.
The Refugee Protection Act of 2016 resolves many of the most severe problems in the U.S. refugee and asylum systems. Among its many significant provisions, the Refugee Protection Act:
- Eliminates the one-year asylum filing deadline that bars refugees with well-founded fears of persecution from asylum;
- Enhances efficiency of the asylum system by allowing some asylum cases to be resolved at the asylum office level rather than putting them directly into immigration court removal proceedings;
- Prevents the unnecessary and prolonged detention of asylum seekers, and requires humane treatment of all immigrants in detention;
- Promotes due process and fairness by providing appointed legal counsel to children and particularly vulnerable individuals;
- Clarifies “nexus” and “particular social group” category, without additional requirement of ‘“social visibility” which could endanger victims of gender persecution or LGBT refugees;
- Enhances effectiveness of resettlement processing through enhanced transparency, access to counsel, and the facilitation of resettlement consideration for groups whose resettlement is justified as a humanitarian concern or is otherwise in the national interest;
- Protects innocent refugees from inappropriate exclusion by revising overly broad immigration definitions that are mislabeling victims of armed groups and terrorist organizations as supporters of terrorism; and
- Safeguards newly arrived refugees from slipping into poverty and supports local communities.
“The United States has a proud history of providing refuge to victims of persecution,” said Acer. “Today’s legislation strengthens our country’s commitment to freedom and respect for human dignity.”
For more information or to speak with Acer, contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3319.