Fall 2009-Asylum News

Human Rights First Releases a New Report on the Impact the Terrorism Bars Continue to Have upon Asylum Seekers and Refugees Human Rights First’s new report, DENIAL AND DELAY: The Impact of the Immigration Law’s “Terrorism Bars” on Asylum-Seekers and Refugees in the United States, describes how the definitions of “terrorist organization” and “material support” have been defined and interpreted so broadly that thousands of men, women, and children – who do not pose a danger to the United States and have not committed any acts of wrong-doing – have had their applications for asylum, permanent residence, and family reunification denied or delayed. Among these individuals are peaceful advocates for democracy in countries ranging from Sudan to Zimbabwe, children who were abducted by rebel armies, doctors who provided medical care to anyone who fought with non-state forces, and those who fought against the armies of repressive governments in their home countries, some with the support of the U.S. government. The report offers a series of policy recommendations aimed to focus the scope and application of the terrorism bars on those individuals who Congress intended those provisions to target. Click here to read the press release. Click here to read the full report. To read the Washington Post article, “U.S. antiterrorism laws causing immigration delays for refugees,” click here. Human Rights First Thanks Senators Lieberman, Menendez, Leahy, Akaka and Gillibrand for Their Leadership in Supporting Key Principles of Detention Reform Human Rights First, joined by 42 faith-based, human rights, refugee assistance and other organizations and individuals advocating on behalf of detained asylum seekers, commemorated the Thanksgiving holiday by sending letters to Senators Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-NY) thanking them for their leadership in promoting key principles of detention reform. These Senators are the sponsors and co-sponsors of two bills – the Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act (S. 1594) and the Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Detention Act (S. 1549) – which would establish critical due process protections for immigrants in detention with special provisions for “vulnerable populations,” including asylum seekers. Read Human Rights First’s letters below:

  • To Senator Daniel K. Akaka
  • To Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand
  • To Senator Patrick J. Leahy
  • To Senator Joseph Lieberman
  • To Senator Robert Menendez

Georgetown University Law Center Releases a Report on the Refugee Crisis in America A team of students at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. conducted a fact-finding investigation to analyze the extent to which the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is, and is not, meeting the needs of Iraqi refugees and affording them an adequate durable solution. In October 2009, the team released the report, Refugee Crisis in America: Iraqis and Their Resettlement Experience, which makes a series of recommendations to U.S. policymakers regarding the planning, coordination, and funding of the resettlement process and the structure and length of the services refugees receive after arriving in the United States. The report uses U.S. obligations to refugees under international and domestic law as a baseline. Click here to read the report. The U.S. Makes Progress Toward Resolving a Leading Asylum Case for Survivor of Brutal Domestic Violence In an immigration court filing in late October, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made clear that the Department agrees that Rodi Alvarado merits a grant of asylum in the United States. Ms. Alvarado suffered brutal domestic violence for over a decade in her home country of Guatemala, receiving no protection from the police and courts when she repeatedly asked for help. Over the past 14 years, while her case has been in litigation, Ms. Alvarado’s struggle prompted concern from a diverse coalition of organizations and a bi-partisan group of over 100 Members of Congress who were concerned that a denial of asylum in her case would limit the ability of women fleeing from domestic violence, honor killings and other gender-based violence to receive asylum in the United States. Human Rights First welcomes this positive development in Ms. Alvarado’s case but also urges U.S. policymakers to advance regulations or legislation clarifying aspects of the “social group” basis for asylum so that other women who have suffered brutal persecution are not denied this country’s protection – or forced to wait for years to have their cases resolved. The Marvin Frankel Annual Award Each year, Human Rights First honors the memory of Judge Marvin E. Frankel, a founding father of Human Rights First and former Chairman of our Board of Directors with an award in his name. On October 22, 2009, Human Rights First announced that this year’s recipients would be Kaye Scholer LLP in New York and McDermott Will & Emery LLP in Washington D.C. Attorneys at both firms have provided top quality pro bono legal representation to asylum seekers through the asylum representation program at Human Rights First for many years. They have demonstrated the ability to handle a number of complex asylum cases that have taken several years to resolve as well as a willingness to come to the rescue on short notice and accept expedited cases of highly vulnerable asylum seekers. Click here to read more about the Frankel Award.

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Published on July 2, 2010


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