CVT Welcomes the Refugee Protection Act of 2013
St. Paul, MN – The Center for Victims of Torture™ (CVT) welcomes the Refugee Protection Act of 2013 introduced today by Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Zoe Lofgren and hopes that critical reforms to the U.S. asylum system will be included in any immigration reform bill considered in Congress this year.
“As a rehabilitation center providing healing services to torture survivors, CVT sees first-hand the ways in which extended delays and other obstacles in the U.S. asylum process exacerbate the severe mental health symptoms our clients are suffering,” said Curt Goering, executive director of CVT. “We are grateful to Senator Leahy and Representative Lofgren for sponsoring the Refugee Protection Act and for continuously working on behalf of refugees.”
The Refugee Protection Act would address some of the more significant legal challenges facing CVT clients who are seeking asylum, including:
- Eliminating the filing deadline for asylum-seekers so that claims to asylum can be decided based on an applicant’s fear of persecution rather than the timeliness of when s/he filed an application. This technical filing requirement 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.
- Refining the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds (TRIG) to target actual terrorists instead of mislabeling asylum seekers and refugees—who are not guilty of any wrongdoing and do not pose any threat to the US, our security or our communities—as “terrorists” because the definitions of “terrorist” activity, “terrorist” organization and what constitutes “material support” to terrorism in the immigration laws were written so broadly. For many individuals whose cases have been ensnared by these overly broad definitions, the circumstances triggering their ineligibility are their very basis for seeking asylum or refugee protection.
- Reforming the immigration detention system by expanding secure alternatives to detention programs, improving conditions of detention, and enhancing due process protections to avoid unnecessary or prolonged detention.
“For survivors of torture–many of whom understand first-hand the horrors of actual terrorism–, being mislabeled a ‘terrorist’ by the U.S. government is shameful, threatening and can be highly retraumatizing,” said Goering. “Similarly, for those whose torture occurred while in a confinement setting, the immigration detention experience may lead survivors to relive their horrid experiences of torture, contributing to further psychological damage. These experiences are particularly detrimental to survivors of torture who may already be struggling with severe anxiety, depression, sleep abnormalities, medical conditions, physical pain, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder and are facing the possibility of deportation to country where they were tortured and where they fear being tortured again.”
brobideau [at] cvt [dot] org
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