The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) strongly supports the Refugee Protection Act (RPA) of 2016, introduced today in the Senate and House. CGRS applauds Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Zoe Lofgren, together with their co-sponsors, for championing this bill and urges all members of Congress to lend their support.
“We commend the introduction of this historic, carefully-crafted legislation. The Refugee Protection Act eliminates arbitrary and unfair barriers to asylum, providing greater protections in particular to children and survivors of gender-based violence,” said Eunice Lee, Co-Legal Director of CGRS. “By promoting fairness, transparency, and due process in our refugee and asylum system, the RPA ensures adherence to our international and domestic legal obligations and moral principles.”
The Refugee Protection Act of 2016 comes at a critical time, with the world refugee population today at its highest numbers since World War II, including many fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. The governmental response to the human rights crisis in our region has been sorely lacking. Rather than offering adequate protection to Central American women and child refugees—as it is required to do under domestic and international law—the government has imposed barriers to their right to seek asylum. These include the expansion of family detention, restrictive litigation positions on the scope of refugee protection, and increasing use of flawed and curtailed procedures against asylum seekers.
The Refugee Protection Act provides a needed fix to an increasingly onerous and flawed asylum and refugee system. The proposed legislation eliminates technical procedural barriers to asylum and promotes greater due process and efficiency—including via provision of counsel to children and other vulnerable asylum seekers. It helps ensure that victims of terrorism are not mislabeled as terrorists and improves refugee resettlement procedures. In addition, the RPA includes language clarifying that those persecuted on the basis of fundamental or immutable characteristics, such as gender or sexual orientation, qualify for refugee protection.