Joint Letter to Congress re: REAL ID Act

February 03, 2005
Joint Letter to Congress

PDF version available here.

REAL ID Act of 2005 (HR Bill 418)

February 03, 2005

Dear Member of Congress:

We, the under-signed organizations and individuals, urge you to oppose Section 101 of the REAL ID Act of 2005 (H.R.418) which would have a devastating impact on legitimate asylum-seekers and refugees in this country. This bill includes provisions that will make it much harder for refugees to get asylum in this country — and could lead to their deportation into the hands of their persecutors.

Specifically, we oppose the following parts of Section 101:

  • Allows refugees who testify credibly to be denied asylum if they are unable to track down "corroborating evidence" — empowering an immigration officer or immigration judge to deny asylum to a refugee because he believes, in his discretion, that the refugee should have somehow been able to obtain a particular document;
  • Requires a refugee to prove her persecutor’s "central" reasons for harming her – essentially penalizing a refugee who cannot prove with unrealistic precision the persecutor’s motivation;
  • Gives an immigration officer or immigration judge broad leeway to deny a refugee asylum based on her perceived "demeanor" and alleged "statements" taken in unreliable circumstances.

    Section 101 will bar many legitimate refugees who have fled brutal human rights abuses — including torture, rape, and other horrific violence from receiving asylum. Refugees often flee for their lives in situations that do not allow them to gather "corroborating evidence" and it is often impossible for them to subsequently track down these kinds of documents — especially given their lack of resources and the lack of funded legal representation. Persecutors’ main concern in most cases is harming the applicant, not explaining the reasons for their actions, and the applicant’s main concern is — and should be — escaping this harm, not documenting the reasons for it. The REAL ID Act would place an enormous and unnecessary burden on asylum seekers by requiring them to prove with unrealistic precision what is going on in their persecutors’ minds. Finally, these provisions also ignore the fact that refugees who suffer from the after-effects of torture and trauma — including survivors of rape or forced abortions – may appear lacking in emotion or have difficulty making eye contact, making "demeanor" a particularly poor indicator of credibility for those asylum seekers.

    Section 101 of the bill will have devastating consequences for bona fide asylum-seekers and refugees without making our nation safer. We, the undersigned urge you to oppose Section 101 of the REAL ID Act.

    Thank you for your consideration of our views.



    American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

    American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

    American Federation of Labor- Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

    American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

    American Jewish Committee

    Amnesty International USA

    Anti-Defamation League

    Asian Law Caucus

    Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California

    Bill of Rights Defense Committee

    Catholic Charities USA

    Center for Gender and Refugee Studies
    Univ. of Calif., Hastings College of the Law

    Center for National Security Studies

    Episcopal Migration Ministries

    Golden Vision Foundation

    Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program Harvard Law School

    Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Chicago, Illinois

    Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society

    Hmong National Development

    Human Rights First

    Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

    Immigration Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston, MA

    Irish American Unity Conference

    Jewish Council for Public Affairs

    Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Inc.

    Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

    Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center, Chicago, Illinois

    The Multiracial Activist

    National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC)

    National Council of La Raza

    National Immigration Forum

    Peace Action WI

    Refugee Law Center, Boston, MA

    Tahirih Justice Center

    Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

    Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

    U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

    Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

    Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children

    World Organization for Human Rights USA

    World Relief


    Muneer Ahmad
    Associate Professor
    American University, Washington College of Law

    Katy Z. Allen

    Deborah Anker
    Lecturer on Law
    Director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program Harvard Law

    Marianne Artusio
    Associate Professor of Law
    Director of Clinical Education, Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

    Michael Avery
    President, National Lawyers Guild

    Roxana C. Bacon
    Adjunct Professor of Law
    Partner, Littler Mendelson Bacon & Dear

    Jon Bauer
    Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Asylum & Human Rights Clinic
    University of Connecticut School of Law

    Angela Bean, Oakland, California
    Business Owner

    Adele Bernhard
    Associate Professor of Law
    Pace Law School

    Richard A. Boswell
    Professor of Law
    Univ. of Calif., Hastings College of the Law

    Melinda Branscomb
    Professor, Seattle University School of Law

    Mary Brittingham
    Associate Professor of Clinical Law
    George Washington University Law School

    Elizabeth M. Bruch
    Associate Professor of Law
    Valparaiso University School of Law

    Michelle Caldera
    Davis Clinical Teaching Fellow
    Asylum & Human Rights Clinic
    University of Connecticut Law School

    Bridgette Carr
    Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
    Ave Maria School of Law

    Michael J. Churgin
    Raybourne Thompson Centennial Professor in Law
    The University of Texas School of Law

    Melissa Crow
    Assistant Professor of Clinical Law
    Brooklyn Law School

    Jeffrey D. Dillman
    Associate Professor of Law
    Milton Kramer Law Clinic
    Case Western Reserve University School of Law

    Jane Dolkart
    Visiting Professor of Law
    Washington College of Law
    American University

    Stephen Ellmann
    Professor of Law
    Associate Dean for Faculty Development
    New York Law School.

    Taylor Flynn
    Associate Professor
    Northeastern University School of Law

    Eric M. Freedman
    Maurice A. Deane Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law
    Hofstra Law School

    Niels W. Frenzen
    Clinical Associate Professor of Law
    University of Southern California

    Pamela Goldberg
    Research Scholar, New York Law School

    Dina Haynes
    Visitor/Practitioner in Residence
    American University
    Washington College of Law

    Barbara Hines
    Clinical Professor
    Immigration Clinic
    University of Texas School of Law

    Marsha Huie
    Professor of Law
    College of Law
    The University of Tulsa

    Sarah Ignatius
    Lecturer on Immigration Law
    Boston College Law School

    Lisa Koop
    Supervising Attorney and Teaching Scholar Notre Dame Immigration Clinic

    Daniel M. Kowalski
    Bender’s Immigration Bulletin (LexisNexis)

    Lynn Marcus
    Director, Immigration Law Clinic
    Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona

    Prof. Peter Margulies
    Roger Williams University School of Law

    Finbarr McCarthy
    Associate Professor of Law
    Temple University School of Law

    Elizabeth McCormick
    Lecturer and Staff Attorney
    Cornell Legal Aid Clinic
    Cornell Law School

    Estelle McKee
    Cornell Law School Asylum & Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic

    Elliott S. Milstein
    Professor of Law
    American University Washington College of Law

    Jennifer Moore
    Professor of Law
    University of New Mexico School of Law

    Kimberly E. O’Leary
    Professor of Law
    Thomas M. Cooley Law School

    Lori Nessel
    Associate Professor
    Director, Immigration & Human Rights Clinic
    Center for Social Justice
    Seton Hall University School of Law

    Reta Noblett-Feld
    Clinical Law Professor
    University of Iowa College of Law

    Michele Pistone
    Professor and Director
    Clinical Program & CARES Clinic Villanova University School of Law

    Marc R. Poirier
    Professor of Law
    Seton Hall University School of Law

    Jaya Ramji
    Advocacy Fellow
    Center for Applied Legal Studies
    Georgetown University Law Center

    Jon Romberg
    Assoc. Professor, Seton Hall University School of Law

    Lory Diana Rosenberg
    IDEA Immigration Defense & Expert Assistance, Legal Consultation

    Karen Ross
    MALD Candidate 2005
    The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

    John A. Scanlan
    Professor of Law
    Indiana University School of Law

    Andrew I. Schoenholtz, J.D., Ph.D.
    Deputy Director
    Institute for the Study of International Migration
    Georgetown University

    Philip G. Schrag
    Professor of Law
    Georgetown University

    Elisabeth Semel
    Acting Clinical Professor of Law
    Boalt Hall, University of California at Berkeley

    Ragini Shah
    Clinical Staff Attorney
    Morningside Heights Legal Services, Inc./ Child Advocacy Clinic
    Columbia University Law School

    Ann Shalleck
    Professor of Law and Carrington Shields Scholar
    American University Washington College of Law

    Careen Shannon
    Adjunct Professor of Law
    Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

    Beth Stickney, Esq.
    Executive Director
    Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

    Robert N. Strassfeld
    Professor of Law
    Case Western Reserve University School of Law

    Carlina Tapia-Ruano
    Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, PC

    Bernard Trujillo
    Assistant Professor
    U. Wisconsin Law School

    Diane Uchimiya
    Advocacy Fellow/Immigration Attorney
    Center for Applied Legal Studies,
    Georgetown University Law Center

    Joseph A. Vail

    Rachel Vorspan
    Associate Professor
    Fordham University School of Law

    Jonathan Weinberg
    Professor of Law
    Wayne State University

    Deborah M. Weissman
    Professor of Law
    University of North Carolina School of Law

    Harry H. Wellington
    New York Law School

    Virgil Wiebe
    Director of Clinical Education
    Assistant Professor of Law
    University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis

    Arthur D. Wolf
    Professor of Law
    Director, Legislative Institute
    Western New England College School of Law

    Phil Worden

    Leah Wortham
    Associate Professor of Law
    Catholic University Law School

    Lauris Wren
    Attorney-In-Charge/ Clinical Instructor
    Hofstra Law School Asylum Clinic

    Jennifer L. Wright
    Associate Professor of Law
    University of St. Thomas School of Law

    Stephen Yale-Loehr
    Cornell Law School Asylum & Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic

    *For individual signers, institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only

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