Interfaith Coalition of Faith-based Leaders Release Report Expressing Opposition to the REAL ID Act

Posted on Mon, Apr 11, 2005 at 13:32 pm

(Washington, D.C.) – An interfaith coalition of prominent faith-based leaders announce the release of the report Faithful but Forsaken: REAL ID Act Harms Victims of Religious Persecution at a news conference Tuesday, April 12, at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Dirksen Office Building, Room G-11. Each of these traditions, having witnessed the suffering of persons whose beliefs often place their lives in jeopardy, come together to express strong opposition to the refugee-related provisions of the REAL ID Act currently under consideration in Congress.

“The REAL ID legislation would make it much more difficult for victims of religious and other types of persecution to find safe haven in the United States through the asylum system,” says Leonard Glickman, president and CEO of HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. “We support effective immigration enforcement and measures to increase our national security, but the REAL ID Act would not accomplish that. In fact, it would inflict serious hardship on victims of persecution, torture, and trauma, who rightly look to the U.S. as a beacon of hope.”

The report, produced by HIAS, in cooperation with a coalition of religious and refugee organizations, is a tribute to the many victims of religious persecution who are pursuing asylum protection in the United States and who would be adversely affected by The REAL ID Act.

The REAL ID Act was originally introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and passed by the House of Representatives in February. The REAL ID Act was subsequently included by the House in the emergency supplemental bill, legislation to fund U.S. troops in Iraq and aid tsunami victims in Southeast Asia, in an attempt to press the Senate to vote anti-refugee provisions into law without due deliberation and debate. The legislation includes provisions that place refugees at an increased risk of persecution and erodes this country’s historic commitment to protect those seeking safe haven.

The purported intent of the refugee provisions of the REAL ID Act is to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States. However, restricting access to asylum does not serve the cause of national security. The REAL ID Act is a misguided piece of legislation that would further victimize asylum seekers, including those documented in the Faithful but Forsaken report.

Specifically, the REAL ID Act would require unreasonable levels of evidence to prove an asylum claim, place a greater burden on asylum seekers to convince reviewers of the key motivation of their accusers, and eliminate stays of removal so that asylum seekers who are most likely to win their cases would have already been sent back into the hands of their persecutors.

The interfaith coalition calls upon Congress to oppose a narrowing of the door to asylum to some of the world’s most at risk persons and reject the REAL ID Act.

Speakers at the press conference include: Dr. Barrett Duke, vice president for Public Policy and Research for the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel for the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, and Pastor Getaneh M. Getaneh, an Ethiopian granted asylum on grounds of religious persecution. Ann Buwalda, director of the Jubilee Campaign USA, will moderate.

Faithful but Forsaken was originally released in February with 33 organizations endorsing the report. A new version is being released in response to the House of Representatives’ passage of the REAL ID Act (H.R. 418), House attachment of REAL ID Act to the emergency spending bill (H.R. 1268), and the possible attachment of the REAL ID Act to the Senate version of the emergency spending bill.