|On this World Refugee Day, take action to protect refugees and asylum seekers right here in the United States. We know that calls from constituents are making a difference. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask for your Senator’s office. Tell them why you care about refugees and asylum-seekers and ask them to protect ALL the asylum and refugee provisions currently in the bill.|
(Washington, D.C.) June 20, 2013 — The Senate immigration reform bill (S.744) contains provisions that, if passed, would be a huge step forward for refugees and asylees in the United States. For a full list, see Title III Subtitle D of the bill but here are a few worth highlighting. In its current form, the Senate bill:
Creates a statelessness determination procedure. Although the exact number is unknown, there are a few thousand stateless people living in the United States—people who, for reasons beyond their control, don’t have any nationality and are therefore extremely vulnerable to violations of their rights. Sometimes this is because their country no longer exists, as in the case of the former Soviet Union, and they did not gain the nationality of any of the successor states. Sometimes this is because of complications with the citizenship law of their country of origin, as sometimes happens when countries don’t allow women to pass on their nationality to their children. Regardless of the cause, our system currently has no way to deal with stateless people. Even individuals who would otherwise have been allowed to naturalize and become U.S. citizens are in permanent legal limbo. Stateless persons are often detained for months, even years, while their cases are sorted out, and may face travel and employment restrictions. S.744 creates a statelessness determination procedure that would provide a way for these individuals to move forward with their lives.
Eliminates the one-year filing deadline. Currently, asylum-seekers must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States. Unfortunately, this results in the denial of many legitimate asylum claims. For individuals who do not speak English, who have experienced torture or severe trauma, or who have very low levels of legal education, it is often unreasonable to expect that they will be able to submit a complete application within a year. This provision is particularly problematic for women who may be under the control of someone else when they first arrive in the United States. The one year deadline is also an obstacle for people who did file within the allotted year, but have difficulty proving their date of entry, as is the case for people who may enter in an unauthorized fashion because there is no legal way for them to get to safety. For more information about the one year filing deadline, see these excellent FAQs.
Makes the process fairer and more efficient. There are several provisions that help make the process for people fleeing persecution fairer and more efficient. These provisions make it easier for immediate families to stay together and for persecuted religious minorities to seek relief. Another provision ensures that asylum cases are handled through a non-adversarial interview by an asylum officer who is specially trained rather than through an adversarial process by a more expensive and less specialized immigration judge. Moving asylum-seekers out of the adversarial court system is particularly important for people who have been tortured by their own governments. All of these provisions improve the United States refugee and asylee systems and help us live up to our strong history as a free nation that welcomes those who have been persecuted elsewhere.
On this World Refugee Day, take action to protect refugees and asylum seekers right here in the United States. We know that calls from constituents are making a difference. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask for your Senator’s office. Tell them why you care about refugees and asylees and ask them to protect ALL the asylum and refugee provisions currently in the bill. If you’d like, use this script:
My name is _____ and I’m calling from _____. I’m calling to ask Senator _____ to support the asylum and refugee provisions currently within S.744, especially the elimination of the one year filing deadline for asylum seekers. The United States Senate should celebrate World Refugee Day by supporting these important changes.