The asylum provisions of Representative Sensenbrenner’s highly publicized immigration bill would needlessly harm women and children asylum seekers, says the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. This bill is a misguided attempt to fight terrorism which does little more than create additional obstacles for those seeking asylum in the United States.
“The bill — the “REAL ID Act of 2005” — will significantly endanger the lives of women and children who are seeking our help,” says Wendy Young, director of external relations.
One of the most harmful provisions will fundamentally alter the evidentiary standards for asylum claims and the burden of proof for asylum applicants. Even under the current law, many women and children asylum seekers have a hard time proving their claim of persecution. Many refugee women and children are escaping rape, female genital mutilation, honor killings, forced marriage, sexual slavery, trafficking and recruitment as soldiers. Their claims are often based on the actions of non-government actors and the violence often occurs in a private setting. This makes it extremely difficult to prove that the perpetrator is motivated by the victim’s age or gender. Under the new provision, the proof needed would be even more detailed and more evidence would be required. This is a particular burden for children, more than half of whom are unrepresented in their asylum claims.
The provision would also allow an adjudicator determining credibility to consider any statements made by asylum seekers whether or not they were made under oath. The requirement again fails to consider the extremely difficult nature of age- and gender-related claims. Under this proposed bill, if a woman or child fails to discuss their persecution in their first meeting with immigration officials, this could be used against them. Refugee women and children often have a difficult time discussing what has happened to them because of the painful nature of their claims. They often require time and counseling before they can articulate their claims, particularly in front of government officials. It is unrealistic to expect a woman or child claimant to articulate the personal details of their abuse to immigration officials when they first arrive in the United States and are still fearful and confused.
“These provisions will not make the United States safer from terrorists,” says Young. “They will serve instead to undermine our international leadership role in the protection of the world’s refugees, particularly women and children, who look to us for protection from persecution.”