Senators Introduce Bill Strengthening U.S. Commitment to Refugees

Washington, DC Human Rights First today praised Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and Carl Levin (D-MI) for their introduction of the Refugee Protection Act of 2010, legislation designed to strengthen America’s commitment to providing refuge to victims of religious, political, ethnic and other forms of persecution by repairing many of the most severe problems in the U.S. refugee and asylum systems.

“Thirty years ago this week, Congress passed landmark legislation that created important standards for America’s response to refugees seeking our protection,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “In the decades since then, America has faltered in its commitment to the persecuted. Today, Senators Leahy and Levin have introduced legislation that will put our nation back on track and strengthen U.S. refugee protection laws so that they can once again reflect our values and commitments.”

Today’s introduction of the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 coincides with the commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980, a bipartisan bill championed by the late Senator Kennedy (D-MA).  When Congress passed that bill, it affirmed not only its commitment to the Refugee Convention and Protocol, but also affirmed its commitment to help lead the global community in addressing the plight of the world’s persecuted and displaced people. In the intervening years, however, a barrage of new laws and policies have undermined the institution of asylum in the United States, leading this country to deny asylum or other protection to victims of persecution. According to Human Rights First, the time is now ripe to reform the provisions of law, policies and practices that are undermining U.S. values and its commitments to refugees.

The Refugee Protection Act addresses these concerns and includes provisions that would:

  • Eliminate the one year asylum filing deadline that bars refugees with well-founded fears of persecution from asylum;
  • Remove barriers that prevent some asylum seekers from receiving prompt review by the immigration courts of detention decisions so that these asylum seekers are not subject to prolonged and arbitrary detention;
  • Clarify the “particular social group” basis and “nexus” requirements for asylum so that the asylum requests of vulnerable individuals, including women fleeing gender-based persecution and refugees persecuted for their sexual orientation, are adjudicated fairly and consistently; and
  • Protect refugees from inappropriate exclusion by refining the definitions of “terrorist activity” and “terrorist organization” so that our immigration laws target actual terrorists, as opposed to hurting thousands of legitimate refugees who are not guilty of any wrongdoing and pose no threat to American security.The Refugee Protection Act of 2010 will be among the topics discussed tomorrow, March 16, during a Human Rights First and Georgetown Law symposium marking the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Protection Act of 1980.

Published on March 15, 2010


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