Belief Beat

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Act, prompting the Episcopal Church to renew its “committment to remember and advocate on behalf of the uprooted, recognizing that situations of violence and war around the world will continue to force people from their native lands.” And the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a group I recently spoke with for a story about how refugees from Yemen plan to celebrate Passover, has officially endorsed the Refugee Protection Act, which proposes some updates to beef up protection for asylum seekers.

The JTA reports:

Though the original act provided protection for refugees and asylum seekers, provisions have eroded over the years. Asylum seekers, even after proving credible fear of persecution in their home countries, have been detained. Also, restrictions meant to prevent terrorists from entering the United States have barred legitimate, non-threatening asylum seekers from gaining entry.

Voice of America explains the changes will expand consideration to more asylum-seekers intercepted at sea and eliminate some of the time limits for filing claims and applying for legal residency. Based on the Yemenite Jews I interviewed last month — illiterate, unsure about their own ages, hesitant to reveal much background information — more time seems like a good idea.

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Along with HIAS, the legislation is supported by gay rights advocates, who say people seeking asylum because of sexual orientation often need more time to make their cases, especially when LGBT persecution may not be “socially visible.”

Check back to see what other faith-based groups think of the bill, and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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