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Our Washington, D.C. office advances HIAS’ refugee and immigrant protection agenda by educating Washington policy makers on issues concerning both Jewish migrants and the broader immigrant and refugee community.

Capitol Hill Briefing Details Syria’s Humanitarian and Refugee Crisis

Posted on Thu, Mar 06, 2014 at 11:26 am

Earlier this week, Refugee Council USA—which is a coalition of U.S.-based organizations that welcome and protect refugees, including HIAS—sponsored a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled “Responding to the Syrian Humanitarian and Refugee Crises.” Expert panelists included Erol Kekic, Chair of Refugee Council USA and Director of the Immigration and Refugee Program at Church World Service; Kate Philips Barrasso of the International Rescue Committee; and Ann Willhoite of the Center for Victims of Torture. Over 2.4 million people have fled Syria, which is expected to soon replace Afghanistan as the world’s largest refugee-producing country in the world. This event addressed the impact of refugees on neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as the various psychological and mental health needs of this population. The U.S. government has provided nearly $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance for this population since 2011, and President Obama’s new budget for Fiscal Year 2015 includes an additional $1.5 billion in assistance. Learn more about HIAS’ work in aiding Syrian refugees and eliminating barriers to protection for those who seek sanctuary in the U.S.

President’s FY15 Budget Includes Increased Support for Refugees

Posted on Tue, Mar 04, 2014 at 11:25 am

Earlier today, the White House released President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2015, which includes $1.5 billion to aid Syrian refugees and opposition forces within Syria. The budget also maintains crucial for the Office of Refugee Resettlement and increases funding for immigrant integration efforts and immigration courts. Through this budget outline, President Obama again called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, which is expected to reduce the deficit by $158 billion in 10 years. Additionally, the new budget proposes a 10% decrease in the so-called “detention bed mandate” which currently requires the Department of Homeland Security to fill 34,000 immigrant detention center beds daily.

State Department Releases 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Posted on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 11:24 am

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department published their 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. These reports are submitted each year to Congress and are intended to inform U.S. government policy and foreign assistance. Reporting on conditions in nearly 200 countries and territories, the reports draw attention to the growing challenges facing individuals and organizations as governments around the world fall short of their obligation to uphold universal human rights. Key human rights developments around the world in 2013 include restrictions on freedom of speech and press freedom, continued marginalization of vulnerable groups, and increased crackdown on civil society and freedoms of assembly and association in countries including Syria, Russia, Cuba, Egypt, China, Ukraine, and South Sudan. The country report on Iran cites “severe restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, association, and religion,” and notes that members of religious minority groups often had their property seized, were tortured in detention, and faced general harassment and degradation.

House Committee Looks at Potential Fraud in the U.S. Asylum System

Posted on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 16:50 pm

Earlier today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing entitled “Asylum Fraud: Abusing America’s Compassion?“ Expert witnesses included Louis Crocetti, Principal of Immigration Integrity Group, LLC and former Chief of USCIS’ Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate; Jan Ting of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law; Hipolito Acosta, former District Director of USCIS in Houston and INS in Mexico City; and Eleanor Acer, Director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection Program. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle seemed to agree with panelists that fraudulent asylum claims hurt the cases of legitimate asylum seekers who deserve protection in the U.S. In a statement submitted for the official record, HIAS called for reforms to the U.S. asylum system that would protect bona fide refugees.

Administration Announces Exemptions to Broad Terrorism Policies

Posted on Fri, Feb 07, 2014 at 16:47 pm

Earlier this week, discretionary exemptions from the terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) were issued by Secretary Jeh Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary John Kerry of the State Department. HIAS applauded these exemptions, which are a step towards fairness after legislation enacted by Congress in 2001 significantly broadened the definition of “terrorist activity” to encompass some activities that had no real-life connection to terrorism. The exemptions are likely to remove legal obstacles for some particularly vulnerable Syrian refugees, including women and children, as well as persons previously granted asylum or refugee status whose later applications for permanent residency or family reunification have been held up for years, however this will not completely resolve the problem. Learn more about how broad terrorism policies unfairly target victims by reading recent articles in The Hill and the New York Times.

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