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Senate Immigration Bill Reflects America’s Commitment to Refugees

Human Rights First today praised passage of the United States Senate’s immigration reform bill, S. 744, legislation that includes provisions to strengthen the U.S. asylum system including elimination of the unfair and wasteful asylum filing deadline. The organization praised members on both sides of the political aisle who supported this legislation and its improvement of important programs that are critical to preserving American leadership in refugee protection.

Human Rights First praises the Senate Gang of Eight members, who included the asylum and refugee provisions as well as critical provisions to improve access to justice in their base bill. It also lauds the leadership of Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and all of the Gang of Eight members who championed these provisions in the bill through mark-up and floor consideration.


There is a long history of bipartisan support for the U.S. refugee and asylum systems. It was thrilling to see that cooperation come to life as this bill weaved its way through the Senate. We encourage the House of Representatives as well as House and Senate conferees to carry on that tradition as they hash out the final legislation.

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Learn more about the asylum filing deadline.



Press & Media

Refugee Stories

Meet Awoke. He owned and ran an internet café in Ethiopia. His clients often used his café to access opposition websites, but the government found out. He was detained and tortured, and was forced to leave the country out of fear of further persecution. Check out his story.

Meet CJ, a gay man who had been persecuted due to his sexual orientation in Peru. After CJ came to the United States, he didn't know about asylum. He was diagnosed with HIV and became even more afraid of what could happen to him if he were forced to return home. He fell into depression and spoke to a mental health specialist who told him about asylum—but the filing deadline was already long past.

A Congolese nurse and human rights advocate denied asylum because she could not prove her date of entry to the U.S.: A Catholic nurse, Hortense*, who was active in a human rights organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was falsely accused by the Congolese government of being involved with an opposition group. She was arrested, tortured and raped by prison guards after she denied any connection to the opposition group. The nurse was able to escape and traveled first to Mexico with the help of several nuns who had visited her in the prison. She then fled on to the United States, crossing over the southern border without being inspected by immigration officials. She applied for asylum affirmatively within her first year in the United States. Her request for asylum was denied in immigration court because she could not prove the date she entered the United States. After three years of litigation, the nurse was finally extended withholding of removal, but not the full protection of asylum. (*Pseudonym)

An evangelical Christian from Uzbekistan who faced a clear probability of religious persecution was denied asylum based on the filing deadline. He had come to the United States to study and later became fearful to return after learning that there had been a significant increase in persecution against evangelical Christians in Uzbekistan. The increase in attacks, beatings and detention of evangelical Christians was reported by the U.S. Department of State and by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The young man was advised by an attorney that he was not eligible for asylum because he had been in the United States more than one year – even though the significant increase in religious persecution should have made him eligible for an exception to the filing deadline based on changed circumstances. The young man eventually hired a new attorney, and submitted an asylum application. Ultimately, the immigration court acknowledged that it was more likely than not that the young man would be persecuted in Uzbekistan for being an Evangelical Christian and granted him withholding of removal. However, both the immigration court and the Board of Immigration Appeals denied asylum because of the filing deadline. The denial of asylum has also had a significant impact on his family, since the wife of an individual extended withholding of removal – and not asylum - cannot receive derivative asylee status.


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