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Proposed asylum bill could threaten persecuted refugees, critics say

by Allison Trussell

A bill limiting the access refugees have to asylum has faith-based groups and others voicing concern and opposition.

The REAL ID Act, introduced by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), would more stringently require proof of persecution from potential asylum-seekers.

It would also give judges discretion in deciding whether such evidence is sufficient.

The aim, according to Sensenbrenner, is to prevent potential terrorists entry to the United States under false pretenses.

He has cited the case of Ramsi Yousef, who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as an example of abuse.

Human rights groups as well as religious groups have pointed out that asylum laws were changed in 1995 and 1996 in response to the first Trade Center bombing.
“ I think it’s important to give judges and the immigration service the tools to be able to handle people who are using the asylum system for illegitimate purpose, in order to protect the asylum system for those who are genuine applicants for asylum,” Sensenbrenner said.

Critics of the bill voice concern of the impact that a more restrictive system would have on legitimate asylum claims based on religious persecution.

“As American-bases faith communities, we have cherished the ability of asylum seekers to find safety in communities around our nation. We are, therefore, saddened by a further erosion of our asylum system under the pretext of national security,” said a statement made by 19 interfaith groups.

There is also some question of whether the threat of terrorism would be reduced by making asylum benefits less accessible.

“We urge Members of Congress to reject the notion that all asylees are prospective terrorists and that the current system needs to be made more restrictive,” said the statement.

“We are committed to resisting a fear-driven agenda which violated our faith-based principles.”

The changes are included in H.R. 418, which seeks to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining drivers’ licenses and to complete a fence on the California-Mexico border.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives Feb. 10 and has been referred to Senate committee.

United Methodist Position

“We urge policies and practices that ensure the right of every religious group to exercise its faith free from legal, political, or economic restrictions. We condemn all overt and covert forms of religious intolerance. We assert the right of all religions and their adherents to freedom from legal, economic, and social discrimination.”

Para. 162B
2000 Book of Discipline

See Also...
Topic: Human rights Resolutions of the UMC
Geographic Region: South Eastern U.S.United States
Source: UMC Annual Conferences/Jurisdictions

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Date posted: Mar 30, 2005