Department of Homeland Security to Continue Processing Asylum Applications

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today welcomed reports that the Department of Homeland Security will continue adjudicating asylum and other applications for individuals in the United States who are nationals of the countries named in President Trump’s executive order. The order indefinitely banned resettlement of Syrian refugees, suspended the resettlement program for 120 days, and banned travel from Syria, Iraqi, Sudan, Somalia and three other Muslim majority countries.

“The United States, and all countries, should protect refugees regardless of their religion or nationality. Blocking the adjudication of requests for asylum from nationals of these countries would have run contrary to U.S. law and U.S. treaty commitments. These are some of the most persecuted and vulnerable refugees in the world, and many have been waiting years in U.S. immigration court or asylum office backlogs. Targeting asylum seekers from these countries would also have sent the wrong signal to other countries around the world that are hosting the bulk of the world’s refugees,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer.

The January 27 executive order still, in addition to impacting resettled refugees and travelers to the United States, bars asylees and U.S. legal permanent residents from the seven targeted Muslim-majority countries who have been granted asylum in the United States from bringing their minor children and spouses to safety in the United States. The decision highlights the Trump Administration executive order’s continued impact on refugee families by leaving them in grave danger in Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Yemen.

“This policy is simply cruel and unnecessary. To block asylees—who have already been thoroughly vetted and ruled eligible to stay in the United States—from reuniting with their families does nothing to make America safer, it only puts at risk the lives of children, mothers, and fathers,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. These families are stranded in a range of countries including Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and Iran.

Human Rights First and its pro bono attorneys have many refugee clients who have been desperately waiting for U.S adjudicators to determine their asylum cases, all while their children and spouses have been stranded, often in life-threatening situations abroad. The Ninth Circuit has temporarily suspended provisions of the executive order, and these refugee families are among the many whose lives will be affected by rulings in the that case.

One individual affected by this policy is a Human Rights First client from Sudan. Mr. S* is a Sudanese asylee—now green card holder—who fled political persecution in his country. His wife and three children remain in Sudan, and have been working toward joining him in the United States. Their initial application was approved two years ago, and they had been awaiting an Embassy interview at the end of this month, which was abruptly canceled in the wake of President Trump’s executive order. The family now does not know when they’ll be reunited.

Human Rights First is one of the nation’s largest providers of pro bono representation for asylum seekers. The organization partners with pro bono lawyers in cities across the country to help refugees access legal safeguards in the United States, while leveraging its expertise to support these dedicated volunteer lawyers to become exceptional asylum advocates.

The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over 60 million people displaced. Over 4.8 million Syrians have fled their country due to conflict and persecution, and 7.6 million are displaced within Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. Human Rights First’s report “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership” details how many of these refugees have been stranded for years in neighboring countries where they cannot work or support their families, have little access to education, and lack the level of humanitarian assistance they need. Frontline states and key U.S. allies including Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan continue to host the majority of the nearly 5 million refugees who have fled Syria, struggling under the strain of hosting so many refugees.

Former U.S. military leaders and former U.S. national security officials, who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations, have urged that “Welcoming refugees, regardless of their religion or race, exposes the falseness of terrorist propaganda and counters the warped vision of extremists,” and that “religious bans and tests are un-American and have no place in our immigration and refugee policies.”

*Names have been removed to protect client’s safety.


Published on February 6, 2017


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