Include Needs of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Immigration Reform


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Include the Needs of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Immigration Reform

Dear [Decision Maker],

As your constituent, I am writing to urge you to ensure that proposals to reform U.S. immigration rules do not leave out vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers who have fled their home countries because of torture and persecution. Survivors of torture seeking asylum in the United States face many obstacles as they seek protection and freedom. The proposals should address some of the most serious challenges.

Please address the following issues in comprehensive immigration reform legislation:

-- Eliminate the filing deadline for asylum-seekers. The filing deadline prevents legitimate asylum-seekers from having their asylum cases adjudicated on the merits and leads bona fide applicants, including survivors of torture, to be denied the protection they need and for which they are otherwise eligible. As a result, survivors of torture may be trapped in an extended period of legal limbo, prevented from fully integrating legally in the United States, permanently separated from family, or returned to the country responsible for their torture or persecution.

-- Refine the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds (TRIG) to target actual terrorists. U.S. immigration laws define "terrorist" activity, "terrorist" organization and what constitutes "material support" so broadly that the many refugees, asylum seekers and survivors of torture have been mislabeled terrorist and barred from protection in this country as a result. Congress should refine these definitions to target actual terrorists and their supporters, not individuals who are neither connected to terrorism nor guilty of any wrongdoing.

-- Reform the immigration detention system. For survivors of torture, the immigration detention experience is often retraumatizing and may lead them to relive their horrid experiences of torture, contributing to further psychological damage. This can be particularly detrimental when they are simultaneously facing the possibility of deportation to the country where they were tortured and where they fear being tortured again. Whenever possible, torture survivors should not be detained. At a minimum, Congress should eliminate "mandatory" detention, expand humane alternatives to detention programs, including community release programs, and improve due process and review standards to avoid arbitrary or prolonged detention.

Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]
[Your Email]