Statement to Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Hearing on “Improving Border Security and Public Safety”
The United States has laws and policies designed to protect refugees from return to persecution. In the wake of World War II, the United States helped lead efforts to draft the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and this country has a long history of protecting individuals and families who have fled persecution. Consistent with its ideals, the United States has pledged to comply with the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol. U.S. laws, passed with bipartisan support over the years, have created standards and procedures for requesting asylum and have endeavored to create mechanisms to safeguard refugees from return to persecution.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been entrusted with administering many of this country’s processes relating to asylum. For instance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is charged with referring individuals who express an intention to apply for asylum or a fear of persecution for screening interviews with USCIS asylum officers. USCIS is charged with conducting asylum interviews, as well as credible fear and reasonable fear interviews. ICE, with its role operating immigration detention, implements DHS authority to parole an asylum seeker from immigration detention.
The United States can both safeguard its borders while also complying with its legal and treaty obligations with respect to refugees and asylum seekers. In the wake of President Trump’s January 25, 2017 executive order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, Human Rights First is concerned about a number of DHS policies and practices that thwart access to asylum, undermine U.S. global leadership, and contravene U.S. legal and treaty commitments.