Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–16 Mar 2010 – The International Rescue Committee (IRC) says it welcomes the introduction of the Refugee Protection Act of 2010, introduced yesterday by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The measure would change existing asylum policies to ensure more people who need and deserve US protection can benefit from it. It would also make several discrete, yet long overdue improvements in the support provided to refugees newly arrived in the United States. Importantly, the bill would direct the United States government to apply one standard for all asylum seekers intercepted at sea. This would make uniform the treatment of Cubans, Chinese and Haitians attempting to enter America by boat.
“We’ve been seeking consistent treatment of Haitians interdicted at sea for years,” says Robert Carey, IRC vice president for migration and resettlement policy. “Perhaps the earthquake in Haiti will help focus attention on the need to ensure their asylum claims are carefully considered. Current practices violate international humanitarian treaties; the United States should explicitly give intercepted Haitians the opportunity for a fair hearing. The Leahy bill would do this.” Carey also serves as the chairman of the Refugee Council USA, a coalition of twenty-four resettlement, faith-based and human rights agencies that advocate for the protection of refugees.
The measure would also make other changes in the way asylum seekers are treated. Since 1996, asylum-seekers have had to file an asylum claim within one year of arrival in the United States. This has led to bona fide asylum seekers being denied protection simply because of the deadline, no matter how compelling their asylum cases may be. These asylum seekers are then returned to their countries of origin where they face a real threat of persecution. The Refugee Protection Act would eliminate this one-year deadline.
Conversely, current laws require both refugees and individuals given asylum to wait one full year before applying for green cards – that is, status as permanent residents. This bill would remove this hurdle and in so doing, much of the confusion surrounding their status in the workplace. The bill would also emphasize the importance of reunifying refugee families in the United States.
In addition, the bill would ensure that the State Department’s Reception & Placement Grant – the one-time, per-capita grant given to refugees upon arrival in the United States – is adjusted annually to keep up with inflation and the cost of living.
“The United States has a proud tradition of protecting those fleeing their countries because of persecution,” says IRC vice president for government relations, Anne Richard. “The reforms in this legislation would strengthen the nation’s commitment to these vulnerable individuals.”
Richard said the IRC supports the Obama administration in its efforts to review and improve the Refugee Admissions Program and views the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 as one important piece of an overall effort to fix the current program. She said the IRC hopes more Senators will step forward to co-sponsor the legislation, encourages the Senate to take swift action, and urges the House of Representatives to introduce its own version of the bill.
About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee works in over 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle thousands of refugees admitted into the United States each year in and around 22 US cities. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity. For more information, visit theIRC.org