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Refugee Protection Act of 2011

In an effort to aid refugees, the United States Senate and House have introduced the “Refugee Protection Act of 2011.” Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Dick Durban (D-IL), and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) round up the group of congress members spearheading this initiative, one which the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds for their efforts to “ensure that the United States remains a land of hope and refuge for those fleeing persecution.” As it were, more than thirty years ago, Congress passed the Refugee Act, a landmark law intended to codify the United States’ obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951. While the U.S. has fallen short of fulfilling those obligations over the years, this newfound effort to champion this matter comes as a breath of fresh air. Given its degree of importance, AILA urges Congress to act swiftly and in a bipartisan manner to pass this bill since it is so vital to refugees and those who take asylum in this country, as well as to preserve our nations’ identity.

According to AILA President, David Leopold, “In the past six months millions of people around the world have bravely demanded freedom from tyranny and stood up to oppressive regimes even under threats of physical harm. America is a beacon of liberty and hope-and we must keep it shining for all who are oppressed worldwide. The Refugee Protection Act is crucial to ensuring that the United States does its part to protect survivors of persecutions and torture.”

The Refugee Protection Act would eliminate the requirement that asylum seekers file their claims within one year of arriving in the U.S. The rule, which has a few exceptions, has led to many worthy refugees being denied asylum as well as leading to unnecessary administrative waste. As Mr. Leopold concluded, “Time after time, immigration judges are forced to refuse asylum to deserving refugees who, against all odds, have reached our shores in search of protection. The arbitrary one-year rule not only denies them a critical safe-haven but it leads to administrative waste by forcing immigration judges to spend valuable time deciding whether or not a refugee can be excused for late-filing, rather than considering whether the person deserves protection. It is reprehensible that the United States is denying asylum based on an arbitrary deadline.” For all of these reasons, we consider this initiative to be a tremendous win for immigrants and the protection of their cause.

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