Refugee Protection Act Would Restore Justice For Asylum Seekers And Refugees, Says ACLU

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Claire O’Brien, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

Refugee Protection Act Would Restore Justice For Asylum Seekers And Refugees, Says ACLU

Senate Should Swiftly Pass Bill

WASHINGTON - Senator
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Refugee Protection Act late Monday, a
bill that would strengthen legal protections for people seeking asylum
in the United States. The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Carl Levin
(D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI), makes critical
improvements to U.S. asylum laws, which fall short of U.S. treaty
obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The
American Civil Liberties Union applauds Senator Leahy’s leadership in
advancing the Refugee Protection Act and calls on the Senate to swiftly
pass the bill. 
 
“The
Refugee Protection Act is a crucial step towards removing some of the
obstacles that have prevented victims of persecution from obtaining
refugee protection in the U.S.,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the
ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The Senate should take Senator
Leahy’s lead and pass this bill as soon as possible.”
 
The
Refugee Protection Act would make several critical reforms to U.S.
asylum laws. Notably, the bill clarifies definitions of what actions
constitute “material support” to ensure that the innocent
acts of asylum seekers are not mislabeled as terrorist activities. The bill promotes efficient immigration
proceedings by allowing the Attorney General to appoint immigration
counsel where fair resolution or effective adjudication of proceedings
would be served by appointment of counsel. The bill establishes a
nationwide, secure “alternatives to detention” program, and institutes
detention reforms to ensure access to counsel, medical care, religious
practice and family contact visits. Finally, the bill restores judicial
review to a fair and reasonable standard consistent with administrative
law principles. 
 
March
2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the 1980 Refugee Act, a
landmark law that sought to fulfill U.S. obligations under the Refugee
Convention. Thirty years after enactment of the Refugee Act, asylum
seekers are still denied due process and access to justice.
 
“Many
victims of persecution escape harrowing conditions in high-conflict
regions of the world, only to be denied refugee protection in the U.S.
because of an overly broad definition of ‘material support,’” said
Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Untold numbers of asylum seekers
are re-traumatized after arriving to the U.S. because they are locked up
in detention for months - sometimes years - while pursuing their asylum
case. Many asylum seekers with meritorious cases are denied refugee
protection because they cannot afford private immigration counsel and
cannot appeal their case to the federal courts due to jurisdictional
bars. The Refugee Protection Act fixes many of these problems by
ensuring due process and access to justice for victims of persecution
who flee to the U.S.”
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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