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Statement on Refugee Protection Act

Silver Spring, Md. Today, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Zoe Lofgren introduced the Refugee Protection Act (S.2936). This bicameral legislation creates a framework for addressing the shortcomings of the U.S. asylum system and codifies many critical protections for refugees and asylum seekers in U.S. law. HIAS applauds the introduction of this critical legislation and urges Members of Congress to quickly enact these much-needed protections for refugees and asylum seekers trying to rebuild their lives here in the United States.

The Refugee Protection Act will ensure due process for asylum seekers, including legal representation for unaccompanied kids, and will keep families together by facilitating reunification and ensuring that children remain with their parents or caretakers. It establishes renewable employment authorization for asylum seekers, and decreases the time they must wait to receive work authorization to limit the amount of time before they can begin rebuilding their lives. Among the provisions is the creation of an oversight position within the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that complaints and chronic issues are addressed and migrants rights are protected.

Additionally, this bill will ensure that our U.S. laws match our international obligations under the Refugee Convention to not penalize refugees and asylum-seekers for how or where they enter the country. 

This bill will also modernize the refugee resettlement program by creating a framework for the President to designate certain groups of refugees for resettlement based on their immediate needs and setting a minimum refugee admissions goal of no less than 95,000 per year.

“The Refugee Protection Act proposes thoughtful, effective, and much needed solutions to these problems and will ensure that fairness is restored to the asylum system,” said Melanie Nezer, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at HIAS. At a time when global displacement is growing and countries around the world are placing countless obstacles in the path to safety, the Refugee Protection Act would help restore fairness and compassion to the U.S.’s  approach to people fleeing persecution.

The introduction of the Refugee Protection Act comes at a critical time for refugee protection in the United States. Earlier this month President Trump set the refugee admissions goal for FY20 at a historic low of 18,000 and in September signed an Executive Order which will require Governors and local elected officials to approve refugee resettlement in their communities for the first time in the history of U.S. refugee resettlement. 

We urge members of Congress to support the Refugee Protection Act of 2019 and honor our nation’s longstanding history of offering safe haven to persecuted people from around the world.