Integrity Legal

20th March 2010

Recently, this author came across an announcement that a new refugee bill was introduced in the United States Senate. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democratic Senator from the State of Vermont, introduced the “The Refugee Protection Act of 2010.” The provisions of the Act would supplement the Refugee Act of 1980.

In another recent announcement the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) discussed the ways that the proposed bill will improve conditions for American refugees. The following list of improvements was quoted directly from the AILA website:

“Increased Protections for Asylum Seekers:

  • Eliminate the requirement that asylum applicants file their claim within one year of arrival.
  • Protect particularly vulnerable asylum seekers by ensuring they can pursue a claim even where their persecution was not socially visible.
  • Ensure fair process by requiring an immigration judge to give notice and an opportunity to respond when the judge requires corroborating evidence of the asylum claim.
  • Give an applicant the opportunity to explain and clarify inconsistencies in a claim.
  • Enable minors who seek asylum to have an initial interview with an asylum officer in a non-adversarial setting.
  • Allow the Attorney General to appoint counsel where fair resolution or effective adjudication of the proceedings would be served by appointment of counsel.

Reforms to the Expedited Removal Process:

  • Require the referral of asylum seekers to an asylum officer for a credible fear interview, and, if credible fear is found, for an asylum interview.
  • Authorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to conduct a new study on the effects of expedited removal authority on asylum seekers.

Parole of Asylum Seekers:

  • Codify the current DHS policy that asylum seekers be considered for release (“parole”) and requires DHS to issue regulations establishing criteria for parole.
  • Establish a nationwide, secure “alternatives to detention” program.
  • Require changes in the immigration detention system to ensure asylum seekers and others have access to counsel, medical care, religious practice, and visits from family.

Terrorism Bar to Admissibility:

  • Modify definitions in the statute to ensure that innocent asylum seekers and refugees are not unfairly denied protection as a result of the material support and terrorism bars in the law, while ensuring that those with legitimate ties to terrorist activity will continue to be denied entry to the United States.

Protection for Refugees and Asylees:

  • Eliminate the one-year waiting period for refugees and asylees to apply for a green card.
  • Allow certain children and family members of refugees to be considered as derivative applicants for refugee status. All such applicants must pass standard security checks.
  • Authorize the Secretary of State to designate certain groups as eligible for expedited adjudication as refugees.
  • Prevent newly resettled refugees from slipping into poverty by adjusting the per capita refugee resettlement grant level annually for inflation and the cost of living.”

How this bill fares in the Senate remains to be seen, but one can hope that some new measure of protection will be accorded to foreign refugees seeking asylum in the United States of America, particularly in the context of expedited removal as this can cause a great deal of suffering for many of those trying to get into the United States in order to flee persecution.

United States Immigration for Refugees is a major concern in Southeastern Asia as there are many displaced ethnic and religious groups throughout the region. In most cases, refugees come from countries such as Burma or Laos, as Thailand sees few refugees departing for America. For further information regarding American visas from Southeast Asia and Thailand specifically please see: US Visa Thailand.


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