On July 14, 2016, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) endorsed the introduction of the Refugee Protection Act of 2016 by Senator Leahy and Representative Zoe Lofgren. Over 35 organizations endorsed the bill upon introduction. The bill would ensure that refugees and asylum seekers with bona fide claims are protected by the United States, restoring our reputation as a beacon of hope for those suffering from displacement and persecution. Specifically the bill would:
- Increase protections for asylum seekers and other vulnerable immigrants by eliminating the requirement for asylum applications to be filed within one-year of arrival, ensure that claims can still be made even when their persecution was not socially visible, require an immigration judge to give notice and opportunity to respond when the judge requires corroborating evidence of the asylum claim. It would also enable minors to have initial interviews with asylum officers in non-adversarial settings and increase the ability and responsibility of the Attorney General to appoint fair counsel;
- Reform the expedited removal process by requiring referral of asylum seekers to a credible fear interview and then possible an asylum interview and authorize US Commission on International Religious Freedom to conduct a new study on effects of expedited removal on asylum seekers;
- Codify and require the DHS to issue regulations on its current policy on release “parole”, as well as establish a nation-wide secure “alternatives to detention” program and require the immigration detention system to ensure asylum seekers and others have access to counsel, religious practice and visits from family.
- Ensure that innocent asylum seekers and refugees would not be unfairly denied protection as a result of the material support and terrorism bars in the law, but still ensuring that those with actual ties to terrorism are denied entry to the U.S.;
- Finally, to allow certain children and family members of refugees to be considered as derivative applicants for refugee status, authorize the President to designate certain groups for expedited adjudication as refugees and prevent newly resettled refugees from slipping into poverty by adjusting per capita refugee resettlement grant level annually for inflation and cost of living.
An outline of the bill can be found here and a sectional analysis can be found here. Text of legislation can be found here.