Feb. 10, 2005 – As Congress considers legislation to make it more difficult for immigrants to seek political refuge from persecution in their home counties, a human rights commission has released a report detailing "serious and systemic problems in the implementation of" the current asylum process. Some of these problems, reports the panel, "may result in the improper removal of refugees to countries where they may face persecution."
Additionally, asylum seekers are often detained in "inappropriate conditions," according to the report.
Currently, all immigrants who arrive in the US without proper documentation are subject to Expedited Removal and can be turned away by officials unless they say they are seeking refuge in the US and fear returning to their home country. Congress established the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in 1998 and authorized it to conduct an inquiry into whether the Expedited Removal process is sufficiently protecting all immigrants who have legitimate asylum claims.
In the Commissionâ€™s recent study of the process undergone by those seeking political asylum in the US, researchers found that several parts of the system are subjective and unfair. They found that immigrantâ€™s chances of receiving asylum varied greatly depending on which part of the country they entered, which immigration judge heard their claims, and whether they had legal representation.
The commission additionally found that many people fleeing persecution in their home countries were detained as if they were criminals upon arriving to the US.
Immigrantsâ€™ rights advocates point to the commissionâ€™s recent findings as evidence that the current system is too restrictive and heavily flawed, and they say that a new bill being considered by the US House of Representatives this week would further weaken protections for immigrants seeking asylum. The REAL ID Act, introduced by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), would, among other things, make it more difficult for immigrants to gain asylum in the US. The bill also makes it illegal for undocumented immigrants to apply for driverâ€™s licenses (previous coverage) and instructs the Department of Homeland Security to construct another fence along part the Mexico-California border (previous coverage)