Obama, Congress Immigration Reform Plans Should Include Protections for Refugees

New York, NY – Today, President Obama outlined his vision for comprehensive immigration reform and called on Congress to work to pass such legislation.  Human Rights First praises President Obama for prioritizing this important issue and urges him to support measures within comprehensive immigration reform that will protect refugees,  strengthen due process, and fix the nation’s flawed approach to immigration detention. President Obama’s remarks came just one day after a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators detailed their shared principles for immigration reform.

“We are encouraged to see that the President’s proposal outlines many important provisions including: protecting those fleeing persecution by eliminating the limitations that prevent qualified individuals from applying for asylum, improving legal information for immigrants, investing in our immigration courts, expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs,  treating same-sex families as families and providing greater protection for those least able to represent themselves,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “As President Obama and Congress hash out the details of their plans,  we urge that proposals relating to immigration enforcement be consistent with this country’s commitment to fairness, due process and human rights.”

Human Rights First notes that our immigration laws should be brought into line with U.S. values and human rights commitments, and in particular that immigration reform legislation should include provisions to:

  1. Eliminate the wasteful and unfair 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 cost-effective alternatives to detention, immigration court review of detention decisions, and standards and conditions in line with the American Bar Association’s proposed civil immigration detention standards.
  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.”

For detail on Human Rights First’s recommendations for comprehensive immigration reform, see here and here.

For detail on Human Rights First’s recommendations to President Obama, see How to Repair the U.S. Asylum and Refugee Systems (2012) and How to Repair the U.S. Immigration Detention System (2012).


Published on January 29, 2013


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