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Sign-On Letter to Senate Opposing Provisions in Chairman’s Mark That Would Harm Asylum Seekers

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 06031670 (posted Mar. 16, 2006)"

March 6, 2006

Dear Senator,

We, the undersigned 84 organizations and 117 individuals are writing to urge you to oppose provisions in the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006" which the Senate Judiciary is debating this week that would harm various vulnerable populations, including asylum-seekers, children, trafficking victims, and others seeking protection in the United States. No matter what your position is on a temporary guest worker program or border enforcement, we can and should all agree that the United States must uphold its legal commitment and moral obligation to provide refuge to those fleeing persecution or abuse in their home countries. As written, provisions included in Titles II and VII would further harm these already at risk individuals. For example, the bill would:

Limit Access to the Federal Courts

  • Sections 701 and 707 would prevent many refugees from getting mistaken asylum denials corrected by the federal courts, leading them to be deported back into the hands of their persecutors. By shifting jurisdiction over all new petitions for review of removal orders and appeals of district court orders in habeas cases to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, with only a minimal increase in staffing, section 701 would overburden a court with no exposure to immigration cases and lead to hasty and flawed decision-making. The provision would limit physical access to the courts and increase the difficulty and expense of securing counsel, preventing many vulnerable non-citizens from seeking federal court review. These changes would fall particularly hard on detained populations, including women, children and families, many of whom already go unrepresented at the administrative level.

  • Section 706 requires an applicant for withholding of removal to prove that her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or would be "one central reason" for her persecution. When this provision was added to the asylum statute by the REAL ID Act, many organizations and advocates expressed concern that it would make it harder for legitimate refugees to get protection and increasing their chances of being returned to persecution. This same concern applies in the context of withholding of removal.

Criminalize Asylum Seekers, Trafficking Victims, and Other Vulnerable Populations

  • Section 206 makes it a crime to be knowingly out of status. This would criminalize refugees who fall out of status while preparing their asylum applications, trafficking victims who remain in the U.S. against their will, battered women whose abuser controls their immigration status and children who do not understand their immigration status.

  • Section 203 strips DHS and DOJ of discretion to grant a waiver to refugees and asylees who have been convicted of an aggravated felony but show compelling reasons why they should be allowed to adjust their status to permanent resident.

  • Sections 208, 209 and 221 would subject vulnerable individuals who use fraudulent passports or documents to enter the United States to imprisonment for up to 15 years, thereby barring them from relief. Since the bill does not provide for an exception for refugees, children, or other vulnerable groups, this means that an asylum seeker, for example, who was unable to obtain a passport from the government that was persecuting him and fled to the United States on a borrowed document could be barred from asylum and withholding of removal.

  • Section 205 expands the scope of the activities considered "alien-smuggling" such that it could be illegal for individuals or organizations to assist an undocumented immigrant, subject to a very limited exception for religious organizations that provide room and board to undocumented immigrants serving as missionaries.

Provide for Prolonged or Indefinite Detention of Asylum Seekers and Others

  • Section 202 allows for the prolonged detention of asylum seekers and others whose cases are on appeal to the federal courts, and the indefinite detention of immigrants who have been given final orders of removal but cannot be removed. Indigent immigrants who are unable to obtain adequate representation in their removal proceedings are at particular risk for such treatment.

We recognize and support the need to reform our nation's immigration laws. However, this can and should be accomplished in a thoughtful and deliberate manner that does not harm refugees, battered women, and other vulnerable populations.

Many of the undersigned organizations and individuals will also be writing to you separately to discuss these and other issues of concern with this bill. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Organizations
Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

American Friends Service Committee

American Immigration Lawyers Association

American Jewish Committee

Amnesty International - USA

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Break the Chain Campaign

Brewster Center Domestic Violence Services, Inc
Boat People SOS
Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition
Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Corning NY

Center for Battered Women's Legal Services
Sanctuary for Families

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies,
University of California,
Hastings College of the Law

Center for National Security Studies

Center for Victims of Torture

Center for Women Policy Studies

Christian Legal Society

Church Women United

Church Women United of Chemung County (NY)

Church Women United of NYS

Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program

Cornell University Law School
Asylum/CAT Appeals Clinic

The Door - A Center of Alternatives, Inc.
Empire Justice Center

Episcopal Migration Ministries

Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc.

Fairfax County Privacy Council

Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center

Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights

Hispanic Development Corporation, Newark

Human Rights First

Human Rights Watch

Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Immigration Equality

Institute for the Study of Psychosocial Trauma, Palo Alto, CA

Interfaith Refugee Action Team Elizabeth (IRATE)

International Institute of the East Bay

International Rescue Committee

Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Jesuit Refugee Service - USA

Jubilee Campaign USA

Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Inc.

Ladies of Charity of Chemung County (NY)

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights - San Francisco

Legal Momentum

Legal Services for Children - San Francisco

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Maine Civil Liberties Union

Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center

Migrant and Refugee Cultural Support, Inc (MIRECS)

Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights

Morning Star House Inc.

The Multiracial Activist

Na Loio- Immigrant Rights and Public Interest Legal Center

National Immigration Forum

Network Against Human Trafficking

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Past Regents' Club, Diocese of Rochester (NY)

Pax Christi Maine

Pax Christi, Upstate NY

Peace Action Maine

Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center

Physicians for Human Rights

Political Asylum Project of Austin

Prison Legal News

Rocky Mountain Survivors Center

Social Justice Commission of Sacred Heart - St. Dominic Church
Portland, ME

Safe Horizon

Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence

Tahirih Justice Center

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

University of Connecticut School of Law
Asylum and Human Rights Clinic

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Vermont Refugee Assistance

Washington Defender Association's - Immigration Project

Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project

Women Empowered Against Violence, Inc. (WEAVE)

Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children

Women's Law Project

World Relief

Individuals *
Kerry Abrams
Associate Professor of Law
University of Virginia School of Law

Muneer I. Ahmad
Associate Professor of Law
American University Washington College of Law

Deborah Anker
Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Lisa E. Bagley
Shearman & Sterling LLP

Theresa E. Barrett
LIRS Ambassador

Jennifer Barton
Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights

Jon Bauer
Clinical Professor of Law and Director,
Asylum and Human Rights Clinic
University of Connecticut School of Law

Monique Beadle, Refugee Project Director
World Organization for Human Rights USA

Eva M. Berbegal

Jacqueline Bhabha
Executive Director
University Committee on Human Rights Studies
Harvard University

Lisa Block
Safety Network Community Organizer, Southern District

Linda Bosniak
Professor, Rutgers University School of Law

Prof. Richard A. Boswell
Univ. of California, Hastings College of the Law

Susan Bowyer, Managing Attorney
International Institute of the East Bay
Oakland, CA

Mary Brittingham
Associate Professor of Clinical Law
George Washington University Law Center

Elizabeth M. Bruch
Associate Professor of Law
Valparaiso University School of Law

Susan Bryant
CUNY School of Law

Michelle Caldera
William R. Davis Clinical Teaching Fellow
UConn Law School
Asylum & Human Rights Clinic

Simone Campbell-Scott

Janet M. Calvo
Professor of Law CUNY School of Law

Stacy Caplow
Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Education
Brooklyn Law School

Herb Castillo, Executive Director
International Institute of the East Bay
Oakland, CA

Jennifer M. Chacon
Acting Professor
U.C. Davis School of Law

Michael J. Churgin
Raybourne Thompson Centennial Professor
University of Texas School of Law

Amanda Coleman
Ph.D. Candidate, Cultural Anthropology
New School for Social Research

Sue Colussy

Rev. Barb Dinnen
Las Americas Comunidad de Fe/Trinity United Methodist Church

Catherine J. Douglass

Troy E. Elder
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic
FIU College of Law

Thomas Esparza, Jr.

James P. Eyster
Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
Ave Maria Law School

Christine Feagan

Todd D. Fernow
Prof of Law
Univ. of CT School of Law

Niels W. Frenzen
Clinical Associate Professor
University of Southern California
Gould School of Law

Maryellen Fullerton
Professor of Law
Brooklyn Law School

Paula Galowitz
Clinical Professor of Law
New York University School of Law

Dr. Frances Geteles, psychologist

Pamela Goldberg
Consultant

Anne Goldstein
Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law

Catherine Griebel

Mrs. Talat Hamdani
Mother of:
Mohammad Salam Hamdani
NYPD CADET, WTC II

Kim Harrison

Michael G. Heyman
Professor,
The John Marshall Law School

Dina Francesca Haynes
Visiting Associate Professor of Law
University of Nevada at Las Vegas

Barbara Hines
Clinical Professor of Law
Immigration Clinic
University of Texas School of Law

Matthew I. Hirsch
Adjunct Professor
Widener University School of Law

Susan C. Hopkins, Esq.
Carly Hutchinson
Lauren Huston
Kate Jastram
Lecturer in Residence
Boalt Hall School of Law
University of California

Harvey Kaplan (attorney)

Allen S. Keller, M.D.
Director, Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture

Nancy Kelly
Clinical Supervisor, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Anne Kemper

Jillian N. Kong-Sivert, Attorney at Law
Becker, Hadeed, Kellog & Berry, P.C
Hilary Kopple

Lewis Kurlantzick
Professor of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law

Margaret Lamb

Narita Maraj

Hugh Macgill
Oliver Ellsworth Research Professor
Director, Int'l Graduate Studies
University of Connecticut School of Law

M. Isabel Medina
Ferris Family Professor of Law
Loyola University New Orleans
School of Law

Kathleen A. Moccio
Director, Pro Bono Development
American Immigration Lawyers Association

Prof. Nancy Morawetz
Professor of Clinical Law
New York University School of Law

Thomas Morawetz
Tapping Reeve Professor of Law and Ethics
University of Connecticut School of Law

Riikka E. Morrill
Accredited Rep/Paralegal
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Prof. Karen Musalo
Univ. of California, Hastings College of the Law

Jonathan Robert Nelson, Esq.,
New York, New York

Alizabeth Newman
Director Immigrant Initiatives
CUNY School of Lawv
Barbara A. Niess, MPA, MSW
SafeHouse Center

Michael A. Olivas
University of Houston Law Center
Melanie Orhant, Esq.
Anti-Human Trafficking Consultant
Carson Osberg
Maureen O'Sullivan (attorney)
Catherine Paplin

Roy Petty
Law Offices of Roy Petty

Rev. Antoinette Pezet

Michele Pistone
Professor and Director, Clinical Program & CARES Clinic Villanova University School of Law

Dianne Post

Kathi Pugh
Pro Bono Program Counsel
Morrison & Foerster
Jaya Ramji-Nogales
Anne Rapkin
Nancy Lynn Robertson
Staff Attorney/Public Policy Coordinator
Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Susan Roche, Esq.
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Cristina Rodriguez
Assistant Professor of Law
NYU School of Law

Ted Ruthizer
Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School

Lauren Sachs

David Saphire
Ragini Shah
Clinical Staff Attorney
Child Advocacy and Immigration Clinic
Columbia University Law School
Andrew I. Schoenholtz
Georgetown University Law Center

Philip G. Schrag
Professor of Law
Georgetown University

Barbara Schwartz
Clinical Professor
University of Iowa College of Law

Anita Sinha, Advocacy Director
International Institute of the East Bay
Oakland, CA

Deborah S. Smith
Reynolds, Motl and Sherwood, PLLP
(Adjunct Professor, The University of Montana School of Law)

Charles Song and Sunny Lee
Santa Monica, Ca

Nancy Spencer

James H. Stark
Professor of Law and Director of the Mediation Clinic
University of Connecticut School of Law
Kurt A. Strasser
Phillip I. Blumberg Professor
University of Connecticut Law School
Carlina Tapia-Ruano
President-Elect AILA
Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, PC, Principal

Margaret Taylor
Professor of Law
Wake Forest University School of Law

Rev. Linda Theophilus,
Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Eastmont

David B. Thronson
Associate Professor of Law
Co-Director, Immigration Clinic
Boyd School of Law at UNLV

Bernard Trujillo
U. Wisconsin Law School

Diane Uchimiya
Assistant Professor of Law
University of La Verne College of Law

Anne Underwood, Esq.

Stephen Utz
Professor of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law

Jesse Leah Vear
Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights

Athena Viscusi, LICSW
Clinical Director
Neighbors Consejo

Douglas P. Wachholz, Esq.
Centro Latino de Abogados

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia
Adjunct Professor of Law
Washington College of Law at American University

Jonathan Weinberg
Professor of Law
Wayne State University

Virgil Wiebe
Associate Professor of Law
University of St. Thomas School of Law

John Willshire-Carrera
Clinical Supervisor, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Arthur D. Wolfv Professor of Law
Western New England College

Sigrun Wolf

Maria Woltjenv Immigrant Children's Advocacy Project

Sister Janet Yurkanin
Migration and Refugee Services
Diocese of Trenton, NJ

Joan Zorza

* Institutional affiliations listed for individual signatories are stated for purposes of identification only.

 
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