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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in February that would make it harder for asylum seekers to gain their freedom. Supporters of the "REAL ID" bill, introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., say it will help keep would-be terrorists out. If ratified by the Senate and signed by President Bush, it will also block illegal immigrants from gaining driver's licenses.

Dori Dinsmore, executive director of World Relief-Chicago, agrees that "the current system is broken" but says targeting asylum seekers is unfair. (World Relief settles more refugees in the United States than any other agency.)

Dinsmore said the bill would increase the burdens asylum seekers face. The bill would require a refugee to prove the "central" reason for his or her persecution.

Even if refugees testify credibly, they could be denied asylum if they can't produce documents to the satisfaction of an asylum officer or judge. But Dinsmore said family members remaining in the home country could place themselves in jeopardy by trying to get a birth certificate or other documents out of the country.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a D.C.-based think tank, told ct that detention is necessary to protect America's borders. "Every asylum case should be detained in humane circumstances until the case is approved," he said. Krikorian added that the problem is a lack of resources.

Only days before the House passed the bill, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a 500-page report detailing serious failings in the U.S. treatment of refugees who apply for asylum.

The federal agency's study concluded that the Department of Homeland Security's system often ...

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April 2005

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