Calling on Congress to Restore Asylum

(March 2020) - While we fight for justice in the courts, CGRS is also active on Capitol Hill, working to educate Congressional allies on how to reverse the Administration’s illegal actions. While most legislation will not pass as long as control of Congress is divided, it is important to lay the groundwork for the future and to imagine a positive vision of the United States as a country that welcomes refugees and asylum seekers and upholds its international commitments. The key piece of legislation embodying these goals is the Refugee Protection Act of 2019, led by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California.

When Congress enacted the Refugee Act of 1980, incorporating the international definition of refugee into our own Immigration and Nationality Act, it did so with the clear intent that we conform our asylum laws and policies with international law and the guidance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Unfortunately, over time, impermissibly restrictive interpretations of critical legal terms have crept into our jurisprudence, which has resulted in many meritorious cases being denied. This trend has accelerated rapidly under the Trump Administration, with Attorney General William Barr and his predecessor Jeff Sessions using their self-certification power not to clarify the law but to rewrite it entirely, overturning longstanding precedents and putting countless asylum seekers at risk of being returned to unimaginable violence. 

While a future Administration could right these wrongs, it’s critical that Congress speak up now to defend the promise of the 1980 Refugee Act. CGRS worked closely alongside other advocacy organizations to provide key Congressional offices with critical analysis, ensuring that the Refugee Protection Act included provisions to reverse Matter of A-B- and other anti-asylum policies and realign U.S. asylum law with our international obligations.

If your Senators and House Representative have cosponsored the Refugee Protection Act, please thank them. If they haven’t, please urge them to do so now.

The current list of Senate cosponsors can be found here. House cosponsors can be found here. You can find contact information for your legislators on the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association’s advocacy portal.