Yesterday, Senator Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Refugee Protection Act of 2011 (S. 1202/ H.R. 2185). This legislation precedes World Refugee Day on June 20th and would ensure that the United States continues the deeply-rooted tradition of protecting refugees, asylum seekers, children and other vulnerable newcomers. LIRS welcomes the introduction of this legislation as a step toward renewing our nation’s commitment to protect people who are fleeing persecution.
This legislation would help protect family unity for separated children by allowing migrant children who have been separated from their families to reunite with family members. Recognizing that refugee populations have changed significantly over the past 30 years, the bill would also improve and review the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Additionally, the bill would eliminate the unnecessary and harmful one-year filing deadline for asylum seekers to file their asylum applications. For migrants with limited English proficiency, who are unfamiliar with U.S. laws, or have suffered trauma, meeting this deadline can be challenging.
One unfortunate example of an individual harmed by this deadline was Chan*, a Burmese student who fled to the United States after being imprisoned for several years for his political activities. When he arrived in the U.S., Chan knew no one and did not speak English, therefore he did not learn how to apply for asylum until several years after he arrived. As a result of his missing the filing deadline, Chan was denied asylum and was instead granted “withholding of removal,” a minimal form of protection that will never allow him to become a lawful permanent resident.
We need your help to ensure that migrants like Chan who are fleeing persecution continue to be protected. In honor of World Refugee Day and the contributions made by refugees in communities throughout the United States, please take a moment to tell your member of Congress that you support the Refugee Protection Act of 2011.