Final Republican Principles on Immigration Reform Should Include Commitment to Protect Refugees

Draft Principles Fall Short

Washington, D.C. – The draft Republican immigration reform principles that appeared today are a serious development in the campaign to complete immigration reform this year. Human Rights First notes that the draft surprisingly omits reference to a clear area of bi-partisan consensus: our nation’s historic commitment to protect refugees who face political, religious and other forms of persecution, a key imperative for immigration reform.

“It is surprising to see a Republican statement on immigration that doesn’t reaffirm the party’s commitment to protect the persecuted,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer.

Acer notes that 34 years ago, Ronald Reagan signed into law the Refugee Act of 1980, which passed Congress with strong bi-partisan support and that the 2012 Republican National Platform reaffirmed that commitment stating, “We affirm our country’s historic tradition of welcoming refugees from troubled lands. In some cases, they are people who stood with us during dangerous times, and they have first call on our hospitality.” The bi-partisan Senate immigration reform bill, S. 744 included improvements to our nation’s asylum and refugee systems.

Human Rights First urges all Members of Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to strengthen our country’s protection for people fleeing from persecution, and ensure they are not turned away by, or subjected to, arbitrary and unjust policies.

“As members of the House move forward on immigration reform, they have an opportunity to pass measures that will strengthen basic due process, fix the nation’s flawed approach to immigration detention, and realize the full potential of America’s commitment to refugees,” said Acer. “In the past, reform initiatives have ended up hurting the most vulnerable immigrants, such as refugees and asylum seekers, in sweeping efforts to fix other problems. This Congress has a chance this year to enact legislation that is consistent with this country’s values and commitment to protect the persecuted and safeguard the dignity and human rights of all individuals. We hope the Republican principles will be expanded to create this foundation as Congress works through the bill.”

Specifically, Human Rights First recommends that immigration reform legislation include provisions to:

  1. Eliminate the wasteful and counter-productive asylum filing deadline that is barring refugees with well-founded fears of persecution from asylum and diverting overstretched adjudication resources.
  2. Reduce unnecessary immigration detention costs and implement lasting reforms through increasing the use of cost-effective alternatives to detention, immigration court review of detention decisions, and stronger oversight of detention conditions.
  3. Require and support a fair and efficient adjudication process, providing for Legal Orientation Programs and counsel where justice requires, including for children, persons with mental disabilities, and other vulnerable immigrants in immigration detention.
  4. Protect refugees from inappropriate exclusion and free up administrative resources by adjusting overly broad immigration law definitions that have mislabeled refugees as supporters of “terrorism.” “Immigration reform is an opportunity to restore – and renew – not only the United States’ commitment to help those seeking our protection, but also our moral authority to lead the global community in addressing the plight of persecuted and displaced people around the world,” Acer concluded.

Published on January 29, 2014


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