Lofgren and Leahy Lead Bicameral Introduction Of Refugee Protection Act

July 14, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With refugees fleeing violence worldwide, House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced bicameral legislation Thursday to bolster and update the nation's laws to promote a more fair and efficient asylum and refugee process. 

Over the past five years, more than half of Syria's 23 million people have been forced from their homes.  The vast majority of these are women and children.  Closer to the United States, increasing violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America has forced thousands of mothers and children to flee and seek refuge.  El Salvador and Guatemala have the highest child murder rates in the world, and, along with Honduras, among the highest female murder rates.  Further contributing to the sense fear generated by these murders is the inability of the governments to hold perpetrators accountable and keep them from victimizing again. From 2010 to 2013, 95 percent of murders in the Northern Triangle were unsolved or unprosecuted.

The Refugee Protection Act reaffirms the commitments made when the United States ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention, and will help to restore the United States to its rightful role as a safe and welcoming home for those suffering persecution around the world. It would repeal some of the most significant barriers facing refugees and asylum seekers in their search for safety and protection.  It would increase protection for children and families, and those suffering gender-based persecution or persecution for their LGBT identity.

"The United States has long been a global leader in offering safety and protection to victims of terror, abuse, and brutal regimes," said Lofgren.  "Today's global refugee crisis warrants an historic response both at home and abroad.  There are more refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons today than at any time since World War II.  This bill will ensure we continue to lead by example and advance our commitment to protecting and assisting the world's most vulnerable people."

"Now, more than ever, we must reaffirm our role as a humanitarian leader and renew our commitment to those fleeing persecution across the world," said Leahy.  "I am hopeful that if we pause and remember the role refugees and asylum-seekers have played for generations in making our communities strong and vibrant, we will be able to move past the hateful, ugly rhetoric of this campaign season.  Our moral obligation to innocent victims of persecution demands it and our national interest requires it."

"We have a responsibility to fulfill the commitment we have made to refugees in dire need of our help," said Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). "It's important to remember that these are people who are being persecuted for their beliefs or their background. Our country must continue to serve as a beacon of hope for these individuals, and this bill ensures we implement a fair process to protect refugees seeking asylum. This is not only a humanitarian issue, but it is a national security imperative. When we refuse to help those fleeing violence, we empower those who seek to do our country harm."

"The United States has always been, and should always be, a place of refuge," said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). "There are as many as 60 million refugees world-wide today—more than at any time since World War II—as, across the globe, people are fleeing unspeakable violence, persecution, terror, sexual slavery, and torture.  We should not revisit the shameful policies of the past and we cannot be guided by irrational fear.  We must do what we can to help those seeking the safety of our shores so they can build a new life for themselves and for their families.  This is a moral obligation, not just to offer safety but fairness and equality to those fleeing persecution, and I am proud to back this much needed refugee reform legislation."

The Refugee Protection Act also would ensure that children and vulnerable adults in immigration court do not face a judge and prosecutor without a lawyer.  It would update conditions of immigration detention so that they address important issues of access to counsel, religious practice, and visits from family.  The legislation would authorize a study of the refugee resettlement program and improve the collection of data to ensure that the system uses resources efficiently.

The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.).  The House bill is cosponsored by Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Doris O. Matsui (D-Calif.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Albio Sires (D-N.J), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Marc A. Veasey (D-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

The Refugee Protection Act is supported by a wide range of refugee, immigration, and faith-based organizations.  An outline of the bill can be found here and a sectional analysis can be found here.  Text of legislation can be found here.