June 15, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Zoe Lofgren and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation Wednesday to ensure U.S. protection for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their home countries. The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
The Refugee Protection Act will help address shortfalls in current law, and help the U.S. fulfill its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Congress first addressed these obligations when it enacted the Refugee Act of 1980. The Refugee Protection Act would repeal the most harsh and unnecessary elements of current law. The bill introduction precedes international recognition of World Refugee Day, which is celebrated annually on June 20.
“As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Act and the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention, the time is ripe for us to recommit ourselves to protecting refugees and survivors of torture and barbaric regimes,” said Lofgren. “Drawing upon the strong foundation in law and practice that has long made the US a global leader in the protection and resettlement of refugees, the Refugee Protection Act of 2011 contains several much needed changes to our refugee and immigration laws to ensure that we continue to serve as a beacon of freedom to people around the world. America has always led by example, and it’s time we lead the world forward in addressing the realities of persecution in the 21st Century.”
"The Refugee Protection Act will reaffirm the commitments our nation made in ratifying the 1951 Refugee Convention,” Leahy said. “This bill would repeal the most harsh and unnecessary elements of current law, and restore the United States to its rightful role as a safe and welcoming home for those suffering from persecution around the world."
“We must do everything that we can to help these innocent victims of conflict, religious persecution and ethnic hatred,” said Levin. “The Refugee Protection Act of 2011 is a huge step in fulfilling our commitment to aiding these refugees.”
Akaka said, “From the devastating aftermath of World War II through the landmark Refugee Act of 1980 to today, this bill continues our Nation’s historic commitment to provide safe haven to asylum seekers and refugees seeking freedom from persecution and oppression abroad.”
“For over a century, the United States has been a safe place for those facing persecution around the globe,” Durbin said. “The Refugee Protection Act will ensure that refugees and asylum seekers with genuine claims continue to receive the protection of the United States. This bill reforms the process for handling refugee and asylum claims to ensure legitimate refugees and asylum seekers are treated fairly, while protecting the safety of the American people. I’m glad Chairman Leahy has continued his efforts on behalf of refugees and I’m happy to support him.”
The Refugee Protection Act will increase protections for asylum seekers, and make important reforms to the expedited removal process by enabling asylum seekers to pursue their claims first before the Asylum Office of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill will require the immigration detention system to ensure that asylum seekers and others have access to counsel, religious practice, and visits from family. The bill also ensures that innocent asylum seekers and refugees are not unfairly denied protection as a result of overly broad terrorism bars that can have the effect of sweeping in those who were actually victimized by terrorists. The bill ensures that those with actual ties to terrorist activities will continue to be denied entry to the United States.
The Refugee Protection Act legislation is supported by more than 40 organizations that support and advocate for fair refugee and asylum policies.