March 22, 2013 STATEMENT–LIRS Applauds Introduction of Refugee Protection Act of 2013

Press Contact: Jon Pattee, LIRS Assistant Director for Media
202-591-5778, jpattee@lirs.org

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, welcomes the introduction of the Refugee Protection Act of 2013.  The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Leahy (D-Vt.), and is co-sponsored by Senators Levin (D-Mich.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Hirono (D-Hawaii).  Representative Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Conyers (D-Mich.), Ellison (D-Minn.), Polis (D- Colo.), Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Welch (D-Vt.).

The Refugee Protection Act would ensure that the United States continues to uphold its commitment to protecting refugees, asylum seekers, vulnerable children and other migrants who arrive on U.S. shores in search of protection. “The United States has a rich legacy of welcoming refugees and providing shelter to those who face persecution.  These protections are critical components of our nation’s foreign policy and humanitarian response to the millions of vulnerable migrants worldwide who cannot return home,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “As the United States Congress considers reforms to our outdated and faltering immigration system, this legislation would allow America to renew and improve our commitment to people fleeing persecution.”

During times of war, armed conflict or other traumatic events, regrettably some children witness the death of their parents or are permanently separated from their families. The Refugee Protection Act of 2013 would help refugees separated from their families through improvements to the resettlement process. These changes would ensure that vulnerable children would continue to receive the loving care they need.

“Refugees cannot fully begin their lives in the United States if their families remain overseas,” said Terry Abeles, LIRS Director for Refugee Resettlement. “Children in particular need stability and should be kept with family whenever possible.”

The Refugee Protection Act aims to update U.S. laws on refugee and asylum processes that currently bar vulnerable persons from protection.  The legislation would eliminate the one-year filing deadline that prevents many asylum seekers from full protection in the United States. This legislation also requires improvements in the immigration detention system to ensure that newly arrived asylum seekers are considered for release and to better regulate conditions of detention for asylum seekers who are held in immigration custody.  Additionally, the bill protects against the denial of protection in the United States for individuals who have been victims of terrorism in their countries of origin.

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership in advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States. For more information, please visit www.lirs.org.

If you have any questions about this statement, please feel free to contact Brittney Nystrom, Director for Advocacy at (202) 626-7943 or via email at bnystrom@lirs.org.

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