EPPN Alert: Protect Vital Refugee & Asylum Reforms
"A few years ago, government authorities in Turkmenistan persecuted a woman and her son because they had converted to Christianity. The son was tortured to death. The woman was twice detained and tortured. She fled to the United States, where, suffering from panic attacks and depression, she tried to kill herself. Later, after stabilizing, she learned about political asylum and applied for it. But the U.S. government rejected her request for asylum, not because her fear of continued persecution in Turkmenistan wasn't credible — obviously, it was. The problem was that U.S. law requires refugees to apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the country. She'd missed the deadline." (The Richmond Times Dispatch, April 4, 2013)
The one year filing deadline for asylum is one of the pieces of our nation's broken immigration system most in need of reform. Like refugees, those seeking asylum have come to the United States fleeing persecution or fear persecution in their native countries. Unlike refuges, however, asylum seekers request protection from within the United States or at a port of entry and they must file their claim from asylum within one year of arriving in the United Sates or they will be barred, despite the merits of these claim, from receiving asylum.
This arbitrary deadline adds no additional security or efficiency to the asylum process and has resulted in many vulnerable and bona fide asylum seekers, like the woman above, being denied asylum, detained, and/or ordered deported back to countries where violence and death is almost certain.
The bipartisan bill currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, removes the one year filing deadline, allowing the asylum process to focus on the merits of an individual's case rather than the arbitrary deadline and date that he or she arrived. The Episcopal Church has long advocated for a just system of asylum and for the repeal of this deadline.
Beyond the filing deadline, S. 744 includes important and overdue reforms to our nation's refugee program, allowing the family members of for refugee families currently kept apart by law to reunite, providing protection for stateless people under U.S. immigration law for the first time, improving protections for migrants in detention and increasing access to due process and legal orientation programs for detainees.
Despite these welcome changes that would improve the lifesaving programs that welcome vulnerable people and allow them to begin a new life of peace in the U.S., several amendments to S. 744 have been introduced by Senators seeking to strip these provisions from the bill.
The Episcopal Church strongly opposes the proposed amendments that seek to stop or delay needed reforms to improve the lives of asylum seekers, refugees, and U.S. communities that welcome- ask your Senator to do the same!
This summer the 75th General Convention passed B028 Refugee Policy Reform.
Last week Episcopalians across the country joined refugee and humanitarian advocates in support of S. 744 refugee and asylum protections. Read the letters here.
Join Episcopal Migration Ministries important work of welcome
Learn more about the 1 year filing deadline and why it should be repealed