Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer Testifies on Integrity of U.S. Asylum System

Washington, D.C.– Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer will testify before Congress today and detail recommendations for the U.S. government to protect the integrity and effectiveness of the refugee and asylum systems. Acer’s testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security comes as lawmakers examine the increase in those seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico Border.

“U.S. immigration authorities have the legal and policy mechanisms necessary to detect and address abuse, including to refer for prosecution individuals who attempt to orchestrate fraud on the system,” Acer will testify. “Changes in law that would further prolong detention for many asylum seekers or risk turning refugees back to persecution are not necessary, and are inconsistent with this country’s commitments and values. America should not abandon its compassion, but should stand firm as a beacon of hope that will not turn its back on those seeking protection from persecution.”

Acer’s testimony details key steps that the Obama Administration and Congress should take to strengthen the asylum system. These recommendations include:

  • Increase asylum office staffing to address backlogs, provide timely referrals into removal proceedings, and conduct timely in-person credible fear interviews;
  • Increase immigration court staffing to address removal hearing delays and eliminate hearing backlog;
  • Utilize and increase where needed existing anti-fraud tools;
  • Prosecutors should prioritize prosecutions of individuals who orchestrate schemes that defraud the immigration and asylum systems;
  • Implement U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommendations on those fleeing religious and other forms of persecution, and request updated USCIRF study;
  • Effectively implement asylum parole guidance;
  • Use cost-effective alternatives to detention;
  • Support expansion of legal orientation programs and access to counsel measures that improve fairness and efficiency of the immigration system;
  • Remove unnecessary impediments that delay cases and block refugees from this country’s protection, including elimination of the asylum filing deadline; and
  • Identify and address impunity, rule of law deficits, and other drivers of flight.

Today’s hearing takes place just one day after ten of the nation’s most prominent Republican leaders released a statement urging the Republican party to recommit to upholding the United States’ position as an international leader in protecting refugees fleeing oppression and seeking asylum. The signers, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, challenges policymakers to recommit America’s promise to oppressed people who yearn to live in freedom.

As Acer notes in her testimony, “As a beacon of hope for those seeking protection from persecution, the United States must preserve the integrity of its immigration system and provide asylum to refugees in a timely manner.”


Published on February 11, 2014


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