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Ask Your Senators to Stand up for Refugees

Thirty years ago, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, a landmark bill that affirmed the United States' commitment to providing refuge to victims of religious, political, ethnic and other forms of persecution.

In recent years, however, a barrage of new laws, policies, and legal interpretations have eroded the institution of asylum in the United States, undermining the commitments the United States enshrined when passing the Refugee Act and, consequently, leading the United States to deny asylum or other protection to victims of persecution.

Refugees seeking asylum now face prolonged detention in prison-like conditions without due process safeguards, such as a custody hearing by an immigration court, and denials of their requests for asylum based on an arbitrary filing deadline and overly broad exclusion provisions, including those that define victims of terrorism as "terrorist."

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Roland Burris (D-IL) have sponsored the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 (S.3113), a bill that corrects many of the most egregious policies towards refugees and re-establishes the United States' commitment to protecting the persecuted.  The bill needs cosponsors.

Contact your senators today.  Tell them to stand up for refugees, and ask them to support this much-needed bill that would help those fleeing persecution and seeking safe haven in the United States.

The Refugee Protection Act would make some critical reforms such as:

  • Allowing detained asylum seekers to receive prompt hearings by the immigration courts to assess the need for their detention so that these asylum seekers are not subject to prolonged and arbitrary detention;
  • Eliminating the one year asylum filing deadline that bars refugees with well-founded fears of persecution from asylum;
  • Clarifying 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
  • Protecting 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.