2013 JRS/USA Advocacy Issues
Click the tabs below to learn more about some of the issues Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is focused on this year. The area below the tabs will refresh with new information for each section.
- International Detention
- Religious Access in Detention
- Haiti and Dominican Republic
- Migrants & Asylum Seekers
In many countries, including the United States, JRS is active in working to assist refugees and asylum seekers subject to detention. Over the past decade, the use of detention to discourage, control and punish asylum seekers has increased worldwide, affecting refugees and asylum seekers.
JRS/USA believes the use of detention is in almost all instances inappropriate for asylum seekers and refugees. Administrative detention should be used as rarely as possible, and the least restrictive alternative to detention should be identified and employed.
Religious Access Rights for Detainees
Under the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, immigrant detainees have a right to practice their faith and access faith-appropriate religious services while in detention. However, the lack of clear guidance to facilities that have contracted with the Department of Homeland Security has undermined the ability of detained immigrants to fully enjoy this right, and has at times resulted in the outright denial of appropriate faith services for those detained.
To guarantee that immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in detention have access to the comfort of their faith, legislation or binding regulations along with robust implementation guidance and oversight is needed. Religious services provisions must be standardized, supported and enforced at all facilities that hold immigration detainees, whether the facilities are run by the federal government, local state government contractors, or private companies.
While the Administration has drafted significant changes to immigration detention standards that would, if implemented fully, improve the rights of religious expression for detainees among other fundamental rights, these new standards have yet to be put into practice at the majority of the detention facilities. We continue to advocate for the full and binding implementation of all immigration detention standards.
Haitian Migrants, Earthquake Displaced Haitians and Stateless Dominicans of Haitian Descent in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican government has put in place new policies that have resulted in the denial and/or revocation of the nationality of Dominican-born persons of Haitian ethnicity, while simultaneously launching a campaign of mass deportation of Haitian migrants, people displaced by the earthquake, and persons of Haitian descent.
Haitian refugees and migrants, earthquake-displaced Haitians and Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent are living in particularly vulnerable situations within the Dominican Republic. They face arbitrary detention, xenophobia, denationalization (in the case of those who are Dominican-born) and a host of other protection-related concerns. Forcibly returning Haitians to Haiti is not a safe or humane practice and should not be implemented by any member of the international community.
Protection and Durable Solutions for Colombian Refugees
Most Colombian refugees in Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela continue to live in precarious circumstances, often lacking access to basic services, and vulnerable to a host of legal and social challenges that impede full integration into their countries of first refuge.
Although peace talks began between the Colombian government and the FARC in October 2012, violence has intensified in many regions of the country as the government has stepped up its campaign against the FARC and paramilitary successor groups have struggled to maintain power.
Within this context, the vast majority of Colombia's five million internally displaced people and 500,000 refugees are still unable to access voluntary, safe, and dignified returns. The United States and global support for the protection and assistance of Colombia’s refugees and internally displaced continue to be insufficient to fully fund UNHCR and NGO efforts in the region, and resettlement needs continue to far outpace opportunities for resettlement. The protracted Colombian refugee situation requires greater global resources and attention in line with the goals of the Mexico Plan of Action.
Additionally, Colombian refugees often suffer secondary persecution in their countries of first asylum, and JRS continues to work with governments in Ecuador and Panama to preserve protection space for refugees. UNHCR and local governments must reinvigorate efforts to integrate Colombian refugees in host communities while the global community strategically deploys resources for refugee families linked to local development to ease the burden on host communities.
The U.S. must act to increase the numbers of Colombian refugees resettled here and UNHCR should prepare to refer vulnerable cases that meet resettlement criteria, with a special focus on securing a durable solution for the refugee population in Panama.
Migrants, Asylum-Seekers, Refugees
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA believes the U.S. should live up to its tradition of fairness and generosity toward refugees and migrants, and uphold international standards for the treatment of those seeking refuge in this country.
Improvements in U.S. law and policy are needed to protect the rights of asylum seekers, forcibly displaced people, vulnerable migrants, and detained immigrants in the United States.
As the national conversation about comprehensive immigration reform moves forward, JRS/USA will look for opportunities to preserve and protect the rights and well-being of asylum seekers and forced migrants.
For more on Catholic Social Teaching as it relates to Comprehensive Immigration Reform, please click here to visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website.