House Judiciary Committee Urged to Reject Bill Targeting Refugees and Asylum Seekers During Today’s Hearing
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights first today, along with 25 leading human rights, refugee resettlement, and faith organizations, called on the House Judiciary Committee to reject the Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 2431), a bill that would harm refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people fleeing persecution. The organizations submitted a joint statement for the record for today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on H.R. 2431, emphasizing that many provisions in the bill would severely limit access to asylum and undermine U.S. commitments to refugee protection.
“H.R. 2431 undermines our nation’s legal obligations to refugees and would cause unnecessary hardship for refugees seeking and refugees who have already received protection in the United States,” wrote the groups.
H.R. 2431 would significantly increase the use of immigration detention, increase barriers to seeking asylum in the United States by expanding already sweeping inadmissibility provisions that mislabel innocent refugees and victims of armed groups as supporters of terrorism, and deny countless asylum seekers their day in court by requiring expedited removal of broad swaths of immigrants in need of protection.
Problematic provisions of the bill include:
- Blocking from naturalization victims of armed groups and others who have been granted exemptions from the INA’s sweeping “terrorism”-related provisions after case by case determinations confirming that they do not pose a risk.
- Directing that any passport- or visa-related offense where the convicted individual was sentenced to at least 12 months in prison be treated as an “aggravated felony,” barring individuals convicted—including refugees who were only able to escape persecution in their home countries by using invalid documents— of all forms of refugee protection. This provision would place the United States in violation of its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol.
- Giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to significantly expand the use of expedited removal procedures–without even an immigration court hearing– including for those who may themselves have been the victims of terrorist organizations.
- Leaving asylum seekers at risk by requiring DHS to complete background and security checks before granting immigration applications—including for employment authorization, or any immigrant or nonimmigrant petition, or before issuing any proof of status to a person—delaying benefits and relief to those who apply for asylum whose security and background checks are grossly delayed for reasons beyond their control and who are ultimately cleared. (Such checks must already be completed before asylum can be granted.)
- Eliminating current prohibitions on indefinite detention of individuals for immigration purposes, leaving vulnerable asylum seekers languishing in prison-like facilities for even longer periods of time.
- Amending existing law such that any child apprehended while with their parent or legal guardian, or stripped of their “unaccompanied” legal status, could be detained at the discretion of DHS. It further directs that DHS facilities in which such children (and their parents) would be detained be governed by standards determined by DHS; states would be prohibited from imposing any specific licensing requirements on such facilities.
“H.R. 2431 would directly result in the detention of asylum seeking children and their families, a practice documented to be traumatic. It is believed that asylum seekers may make up the majority of immigrants held in immigration detention; however, for three years U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has failed to abide by its legal mandate to provide Congress with annual data on asylum seekers in detention, leading to a lack of transparency regarding whom the agency is detaining and why,” wrote the groups.
Signers of today’s statement include the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Church World Service, DC-Maryland Justice for Our Neighbors, Friends Committee on National Legislation, HIAS, Hispanic Federation, Human Rights First, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, International Refugee Assistance Project, International Rescue Committee, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Latin America Working Group (LAWG), League of United Latin American Citizens, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors, Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Pax Christi USA, Tahirih Justice Center, The Episcopal Church, The IMPAC Fund, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and Women’s Refugee Commission.