A teenage victim of trafficking and rape from the Balkans applied for asylum thirteen months after coming to the United States. Despite extensive evidence and testimony describing her trauma and her difficulties talking about what had happened to her, she was denied asylum. Why? Because she missed the one-year asylum filing deadline.
It’s reasonable to ask why some people in need of asylum don’t apply for it immediately. But when you think about the experience of persecuted refugees, the answer is clear. Many are traumatized and isolated. Most speak little or no English. Some don’t even know they’re supposed to, or able to, seek asylum.
Victims of gender-based violence face an additional hurdle: shame. The asylum process requires them to talk to a stranger about the abuse they’ve suffered—a forbidding task for most, especially for women from cultures where they would be scorned and perhaps ostracized if the nature of their mistreatment became known.
We’ve been working to make sure that the immigration bill now being considered by the Senate includes better protection for refugees. A filing deadline, no matter the length, turns away vulnerable refugees who need our protection. Urge your Senators to protect refugees by keeping Section 3401 in the immigration bill intact.
This is a Human Rights First action alert by Sara Jane Ibrahim, Advocacy Counsel, Refugee Protection Program.