The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brenda Bowser Soder

Refugee Protection Act of 2010 Remedies Severe Problems in Asylum and Refugee Systems

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing is Step in Right Direction


Human Rights First today praised members of the Senate Judiciary
Committee for convening a hearing on the Refugee Protection Act of 2010
(S. 3113), legislation the group notes would repair many of the most
severe problems in the U.S. asylum and refugee systems and strengthen
the U.S. commitment to providing refuge to victims of religious,
political, ethnic and other forms of persecution.

"Despite this country's strong tradition of protecting refugees from
persecution, a barrage of laws, policies and practices have badly
damaged our asylum system over the years," said Human Rights First's
Eleanor Acer. "These flaws have led the United States to deny its
protection to refugees who have fled from serious political, religious
and other forms of persecution. Today's hearing is a step in the right
direction toward addressing these concerns and restoring our nation's
commitment to protecting vulnerable refugees."

Human Rights First notes that asylum seekers are detained in the
United States without basic due process safeguards, and their access to
asylum has been limited because of technical filing deadlines, expedited
screening procedures, overly-broad exclusion provisions and maritime
interdiction polices. Even refugees with well-founded fears of
persecution are denied asylum due to these flawed laws and policies. The
Refugee Protection Act of 2010, championed by Senator Patrick Leahy
(D-VT) and co-sponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), Richard Durbin
(D-IL), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Roland Burris (D-IL), addresses these
concerns and includes provisions that would:

  • Eliminate the one year asylum filing deadline that bars refugees
    with well-founded fears of persecution from asylum;
  • Remove barriers that prevent some asylum seekers from receiving
    prompt review by the immigration courts of detention decisions so that
    these asylum seekers are not subject to prolonged and unnecessary
  • Ensure refugees are not deported back to persecution while they
    prepare their petitions for federal court review;
  • Clarify the "particular social group" basis and "nexus"
    requirements for asylum so that the asylum requests of vulnerable
    individuals, including women fleeing gender-based persecution, are
    adjudicated fairly and consistently; and
  • Protect refugees from inappropriate exclusion by refining the
    definitions of "terrorist activity" and "terrorist organization" so that
    our immigration laws target actual terrorists, as opposed to hurting
    thousands of legitimate refugees who are not guilty of any wrongdoing
    and pose no threat to American security.

"Today's hearing will shine a light on these serious problems and
spark discussion that should lead the Senate to act on this important
legislation," said Acer. "Failure to act will only prolong and
perpetuate the failed policies that currently plague our asylum and
refugee systems."

Read Human Rights First, "Renewing
U.S. Commitment to Refugee Protection: Recommendations for Reform on
the 30th Anniversary of the Refugee Act
." (PDF)

Read Human Rights First's summary
of the Refugee Protection Act
. (PDF)

Read the Refugee
Protection Act of 2010 (S. 3113).

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.