What We Can Do for Refugees: in response to the NY Review of Books

A reader wrote into the New York Review of Books asking the very important question about what to do about misguided interpretations of what it means to provide “material support” to a “terrorist” organization–and how this can be used against innocent refugees and asylum seekers who are themselves victims of violence or repression. The reader asks:

Could the Obama administration possibly not have changed this? If it has not,
could you so inform the readers of the Review, so that we can try to do
something to change it?

What we can do is support the Refugee Protection Act of 2010, which would fix many of the problems in current practice.

Hugh Eakin and Alisa Roth, the authors of the original article–a review of Deborah Amos’s Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East–cited a Human Rights First report in their response, to explain the current law and legal interpretations that lead to situations like the one the reader points out, where ransom paid to free a loved one is counted as “material support” to “terrorism.”

In our report, Denial and Delay: The Impact of the Immigration Law’s ‘Terrorism Bars’ on Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the United States, we provide numerous recommendations to fix the situation. Many of these would be covered under The Refugee Protection Act of 2010–a bill introduced in the Senate that needs cosponsors.

What you can do is write your senators today urging them to cosponsor this critical bill, thus ensuring that innocent victims are not considered as supporters of terrorism–and many other important reforms. Take action.

You can also support our pro bono asylum program that helps provide free legal counsel to asylum seekers in the United States, and works to change the system that unjustly detains them. Donate today!

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Published on June 28, 2010

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