Women’s Month Profile: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
By Jess Ballance
This week, Human Rights First will profile just a few of the millions of women worldwide who are fighting discrimination and gender-based violence, who work tirelessly to make universal human rights for women a reality. On March 8, International Women’s Day, thousands of events will be held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements; the United States designates the whole month of March as Women’s History Month. At Human Rights First, whether we’re helping female refugees or partnering with activists working on the frontlines, we make women’s human rights a priority.
Today, Human Rights First celebrates U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren from California’s 19th Congressional District, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, for her leadership to end the asylum filing deadline and her call for equal protection for women in the U.S. asylum system. Lofgren, alongside Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), re-introduced the Refugee Protection Act in 2013, which among its many significant provisions, eliminates the one year asylum filing deadline and reduces the reliance on costly immigration detention. The one-year deadline for filing asylum applications is a technical requirement that has led to the denial, rejection, or delay of thousands of requests for asylum protection in the United States and created unnecessary inefficiencies in the asylum adjudication process.
In a letter last year to her colleagues on the Hill, Rep. Lofgren highlighted the effects the deadline on women, writing that “due to shortcomings in our policies, women face obstacles at every stage of the asylum process.” She added that “studies show that women are significantly more likely than men to miss the filing deadline, mainly because they are more likely to have suffered sexual- and gender-based trauma that can carry extreme social stigma.”
According to the findings of researchers at the Georgetown University Law Center and Temple University School of Law, women who seek asylum are 50 percent more likely to apply three and four or more years after entry. The deadline is not just anti-refugee; it’s anti-women.
“As we work to reform our immigration laws, it is important that we defend and improve our asylum system so that women who flee persecution are identified and can access the protections they need,” Rep. Lofgren has said. “The elimination of arbitrary provisions such as the one-year filing deadline should be included so that we can uphold our obligations to vulnerable women in desperate need of protection.”
Human Rights First praises Rep. Zoe Lofgren for her dedication to eliminating the asylum filing deadline and her unparalleled leadership in pushing for equal protection for women in the asylum system. She has been an extraordinary asset in the advocacy for an asylum system that honors universal values and American ideals. She knows the system as well as anybody, and that is why she is such a passionate and effective legislator for the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and particularly women. We look forward to working with her and all who champion the U.S. policies that provide protection to the people who desperately need it.