HRI signed on to the following letter sent to a number of U.S. Senators last week in support of these asylum and refugee related provisions. These provisions recognize the struggles that our clients face. Unfortunately, our clients are often forgotten in the immigration debate.
Dear Senators Bennet, Durbin, Flake, Graham, Menendez, McCain, Rubio, and Schumer:
We, the undersigned national, state, and local humanitarian, human rights, faith-based, and refugee-serving organizations, thank you for the inclusion of improvements to immigration law protecting refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people in S. 744. We hope Congress follows your lead to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform upholds the United States’ proud history and tradition of protecting and welcoming victims of persecution and torture.
We welcome and strongly support the inclusion of provisions in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act that seek to improve our laws, increase efficiency, and protect refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people:
- Elimination of unnecessary and costly barriers to protection: By eliminating the one-year filing deadline for asylum applications, which causes so much unnecessary hardship, and further allowing those previously denied for this reason to reopen their cases, the bill would result in a fairer, more efficient asylum system. It would also allow expert, trained asylum officers jurisdiction over an asylum claim after credible fear is shown, rather than initially referring asylum seekers to a judge for lengthy and costly court proceedings. Finally, the bill would provide overseas refugee applicants the opportunity to be represented by counsel during their adjudication process and with more information about denied applications, ensuring more effective review.
- Refugee processes that protect the most vulnerable, are just and efficient, and uphold family unity: We commend the bill’s inclusion of a provision allowing certain refugee children to join their parents in the United States and protections for the surviving relatives of refugees, rectifying gaps in current law that can permanently separate vulnerable families. The bill also improves access to justice for asylum seekers, unaccompanied migrant children, and other vulnerable migrants by expanding the Legal Orientation Program, alternatives to detention, and by providing for the appointment of counsel in certain proceedings to ensure due and expeditious process. The bill additionally extends and improves the Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program, which allows individuals in danger as a result of their work for the U.S. government to seek safety in the United States. A small number of stateless persons, who are not considered citizens of any country, would also be allowed to apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States. Granting the Administration authority to designate some groups of humanitarian concern as eligible for resettlement, including religious minorities from Iran, would particularly help individuals seeking religious freedom and would free up resources and make the processing of refugees more efficient.
- Refugee integration is prioritized: In addition to saving lives, successful integration from the perspective of both refugees and receiving communities should be the goal of the refugee resettlement program. We commend the establishment of an Office of Citizenship and New Americans, the current iteration of which already assists many refugees in the process of becoming U.S. citizens. To further help with critical integration efforts, the bill would provide elderly refugees with greater access to naturalization, ensuring more full and meaningful integration into American civic life while respecting their vulnerabilities.
We strongly support these key reforms to improve the lives of asylum seekers, refugees, and U.S. communities that welcome them and will work to ensure their ultimate enactment into law. These changes would not only help improve efficiencies in current immigration processes but would also ensure that America remains a humanitarian leader throughout the world and fulfills its obligations to those seeking a safe haven and new life.