Coalition Debunks Myths about East African Asylum Seekers

A coalition of community organizations, including the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, has signed a letter to debunk willful misconceptions that Congressman Brian Bilbray is using to call for congressional hearings on the perceived national security threat posed by East African asylum seekers. Rep. Bilbray’s call for hearings are based on recent news reports that failed to accurately present the situation of Somali asylum seekers who come to America for refuge from terrorism and war in their home country.

Our asylum system’s exacting set of measures, including extensive background checks, legal proceedings and one-on-one screenings are already effective in stopping the infiltration of those who might wish to harm us. The coalition’s letter argues that since 9/11, the exceptionally broad interpretation of ‘terrorism” often results in detention or deportation rather than the protection that victims of terrorism and oppression deserve from the United States.

“The asylum system is probably one of the worst ways to infiltrate the United States, given that Congress and the Department of Homeland Security have set up intricate procedures to prevent national security threats from obtaining asylum,” said Sean Riordan, ACLU staff attorney. “It is already incredibly difficult for legitimate asylum seekers to obtain refuge here in the United States and we should be wary of politically-charged calls to make the system more restrictive.”

Signatories to the letter include:
Community Leaders
– Abdi Mohamoud, Horn of Africa
– Ahmed Sahid, Somali Family Service
– Ralph Achenbach, San Diego Refugee Forum
– Rev. John Fanestil, San Diego Foundation for Change
Community Organizations
– American Friends Service Committee – U.S./Mexico Border Program (San Diego)
– Employee Rights Center
– Equality Alliance
– Escondido Human Rights Committee
– San Diego Immigrants’ Rights Consortium
Legal Organizations
– ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
– Casa Cornelia Law Center
Immigration Attorneys
– Cheri Attix
– Ginger Jacobs
– Jonathan Montag
– Loretta Nelms Reyes
– Lilia Velasquez
– Bill Waddell


Read the Letter to Rep. Bilbray