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This article was originally published on March 11, 2009.

A newly introduced bill would eliminate the arbitrary filing deadline that bars many victims of persecution from obtaining safe haven in the United States.

Congressmen Jim Moran and Pete Stark and Congresswoman Diane Watson introduced the Restoring Protection for Victims of Persecution Act (H.R. 4800) on March 10. Tahirih’s Virginia office is located in Congressman Moran’s district, and Tahirih has worked closely with him on this bill and other matters affecting courageous immigrant women and girls fleeing violence in the United States.

As highlighted in Tahirih’s report and congressional briefing, “Precarious Protection: How Unsettled Policy and Current Laws Harm Women and Girls Fleeing Persecution,” the one-year filing deadline can have devastating consequences for women and girls seeking refuge from gender-based persecution.

Enacted as part of the 1996 Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, the one-year filing deadline bars individuals from receiving asylum if they apply one year or more after their arrival in the United States. Following Tahirih’s briefing and report release, all three legislators reached out to Tahirih expressing particular concern over the one-year bar, and their offices have worked with Tahirih, together with Human Rights First and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, to better understand the problem and craft a solution.

Although this arbitrary deadline impacts all those seeking protection in the United States, women asylum seekers—especially those who fled or fear domestic violence, female genital mutilation, honor crimes and other forms of gender-based persecution in their home countries—often face particular complications that delay their applications for protection and place them at greater risk of being denied asylum due to the one-year bar.

As Congressman Moran noted when introducing the bill, “The United States has always been a beacon of hope for refugees fleeing discrimination, whether political, religious, or gender-based. The one-year filing deadline for asylum applications is unnecessary, and its elimination will guarantee all qualified individuals have the opportunity to restart their lives free of persecution.”

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