Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07062860 (posted Jun. 28, 2007)"
June 27, 2007
We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to vote "yes" on SA 1486 sponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), concerning the "treatment of certain nationals of Iraq." This amendment takes a good first step toward safeguarding some of the most vulnerable of Iraq's refugee population and ensuring that their precarious situation is not overlooked.
Since 2003, over 2 million Iraqis have fled their country, most seeking refuge in Syria and Jordan. In addition, it is estimated that 2 million are internally displaced. A large majority of those forced to flee have been persecuted for their religious beliefs. In a recent study, more than half of the 250,000 Chaldean Christians sampled reported that either they or a close family member had been a victim of violence or torture, including kidnapping, attempted extortion, and destruction of their home or business.
At this time, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security are not even considering applications for resettlement from religious minority refugees who fled Iraq unless they were referred by the overwhelmed and under-funded United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This applies to Christian refugees who have fled religious persecution, many of whom have relatives in the United States and some of whom worked for or alongside the United States government in Iraq. Here in the United States, many Christians and other religious minorities that fled religious persecution in Iraq have been denied asylum by immigration judges on the basis of improved country conditions since the fall of Saddam Hussein. While country conditions have indeed "changed," it has become increasingly clear that even today Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities cannot safely return to Iraq.
The Levin-Brownback Amendment would alleviate this situation in two essential ways. First, this amendment would give refugees that fled Iraq to escape religious-based persecution the ability to apply for resettlement in the U.S. directly with the U.S. government. Second, it would allow Iraqi asylum seekers who have been denied asylum on the basis of changed country conditions a new hearing before an immigration judge, who will reconsider whether or not the asylum seeker can safely return to Iraq.
The U.S. Senate has an opportunity to show leadership in the protection of Iraqi refugees, particularly those religious minorities - including the Christians, the Mandaeans, and the Jews - who have no hope of imminent return to Iraq. We thus urge you to vote "yes" on the Levin-Brownback amendment.
American Immigration Lawyers Association
American Jewish Committee
Assyrian American Association of Southern California
CAUSA: Oregon's Immigrant Rights Coalition
Chaldean Federation of America
Church World Service
Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
El Pueblo, Inc.
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Ethiopian Community Development Council
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
Human Rights First
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)
International Rescue Committee
Jesuit Refugee Services/USA
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jubilee Campaign USA
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Medical Mission Sisters
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of La Raza
National Council of Jewish Women
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Forum
New Jersey Immigration Policy Network
Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
The Center for Victims of Torture
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children