The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brenda Bowser Soder,,O -202/370-3323, C - 301/906-4460

Human Rights First Commemorates World Refugee Day, Calls on U.S. Policymakers to Pass the Refugee Protection Act of 2010


Ahead of this weekend's World Refugee Day, Human Rights First is
urging passage of legislation to fix the flawed laws and policies that
now undermine the United States' commitment to refugees. The group
notes that passage of the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 would repair
many of the most severe problems in the U.S. asylum and refugee
resettlement systems and strengthen the nation's ability to provide
refuge to victims of religious, political, ethnic and other forms of

"While the United States has a deep commitment to refugees around
the world, the United States should mark this World Refugee Day by
taking steps to address the barrage of domestic laws, policies and
practices that have undermined U.S. leadership in protecting refugees
from persecution," said Human Rights First's Eleanor Acer. "For
example, many refugees in the United States have been denied asylum due
to a technical filing deadline, and others have been detained in jails
and jail-like facilities, often without basic safeguards like an
immigration court custody hearing to assess the need for continued
detention. Passage of the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 would address
those problems and would be a significant step toward ensuring that the
United States is living up to its moral and treaty commitments to

The Refugee Protection Act of 2010 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
    arbitrary detention;
  • 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 U.S. 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.

In addition to monitoring and advocating for the protection of the
rights of refugees, Human Rights First provides legal counsel to
refugees who seek asylum in the U.S. - working in partnership with
lawyers from major U.S. law firms who volunteer their time to represent
our asylum seeker clients.

"On this World Refugee Day, Human Rights First will celebrate its
volunteer attorneys' hard work and dedication. These talented men and
women have helped so many refugees and their families to rebuild their
lives in safety and security in this country. We look forward to
working with them in the years to come and with the U.S. government as
it works to strengthen protections for refugees," Acer concluded.

Human Rights First notes that around the world, people are forced to
flee their homes due to political, religious, ethnic and other forms of
persecution. Globally there are more than 10 million refugees and more
than 25 million people who have been internally displaced within their
own countries. A small portion of those refugees seek the protection of
the United States. Last year, the United States granted asylum to
22,000 refugees and provided another 75,000 refugees with safe haven
and the opportunity for a new life through the U.S. Refugee
Resettlement Program. These refugees fled from a wide range of places,
including Burma, China, Colombia, Congo (DRC), Iraq, and Sudan.

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.