The Party Platforms and Refugees

by Jason Dzubow on September 5, 2012

The platforms of the various political parties are basically statements about what those parties believe and what they intend to do if elected.  Since it is now election season (the joy), I thought it might be interesting to see what the party platforms have to say about refugees, so here we go:


The Republican Party Platform is the only platform that directly references our country’s commitment to refugees.  The Platform states:

We affirm our country’s historic tradition of welcoming refugees from troubled lands.  In some cases, they are people who stood with us during dangerous times, and they have first call on our hospitality.

“My wife owns a couple of refugees.”

This is a positive statement, and it is encouraging.  As an asylum attorney, I particularly like the second sentence, which acknowledges that some refugees are people who stood with the United States and now face persecution in their homelands.  I represent many people from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere who assisted the U.S., often at great risk to themselves.  My clients include law enforcement officers, journalists, interpreters, human rights workers, and others.  Given that they risked their lives to help us in our mission, we should offer them refuge when needed.

Unfortunately, of late, we have heard many anti-Muslim statements from prominent members of the Republican party.  It seems that such bigotry is inapposite to the Party Platform, which recognizes people like my Muslim clients who “stood with us during dangerous times.”  I hope that the spirit of the Platform–rather than the hatefulness of some Republican officials–will prevail in the Grand Old Party.


The Democratic Party Platform does not specifically mention refugees.  It does discuss immigration, and endorses comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM Act, and the new Deferred Action program.  However, it is disappointing that the Platform is silent on refugee issues.

“If you’re a refugee and you live in a tent, you didn’t build that.”

Since President Obama has been in office for several years, we can safely assume that his policy on refugees and asylees will continue forward if he is re-elected.  The Obama Administration has capped the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. at 80,000 per year.  However, we have never reached the cap.  In 2009, we admitted 74,602 refugees; in 2010, we admitted 73,293; and in 2011, we admitted 56,384 refugees.  As for asylees, we admitted 22,219 in 2009; in 2010, we admitted 21,056; and in 2011, we admitted 24,988 (all of this is courtesy of the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics).

President Obama’s policies have been comparable with his predecessors, and I think we can expect similar policies if he has a second term.

Libertarian Party

Since I have an affinity for third parties, I thought I would mention two.  The first is the Libertarian Party.  The party’s Platform is silent on refugee issues.  The only mention of human rights is in the context of property law: “Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights.”  The Platforms mentions immigration and states:

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws.

Given the general Libertarian philosophy (“We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid”), I’d imagine that they would leave refugee assistance up to private individuals and agencies, such as churches or humanitarian NGOs.  Like much of Libertarianism, this is nice in theory, but has problems in practice.  For various reasons, refugees impact national security and relationships between nations.  For this reason, governments cannot always leave refugee policy in the hands of private organizations.

Green Party

Finally, the Green Party Platform mentions refugees several times, but always in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “We reaffirm the right and feasibility of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel.”

While I support the rights of Palestinian refugees, this is pretty ridiculous.  Why single out Palestinians among all the world’s refugees while at the same time completely ignoring refugees from other countries, including many who are living (and dying) under worse conditions than the Palestinians?  It seems to me that this is not a serious party platform, which is unfortunate, as we could certainly use a strong, articulate liberal voice on this and other issues.

OK, so there you have it.  To judge solely by party platform, I’d say that the Republicans win on the refugee issue, though I suppose the win is mostly by default.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mikhail Sebastian September 6, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I am committed to support UNHCR in fight against injustice of statelessness in the United States. The United States Government should act quickly in finding the resolution in plights of thousands of people on their soil who became marginalized and forgotten, thrown away from society with no country to go and have basic human rights that accorded by international organization stripped from them. Current Government continues to ignore statelessness issue while DHS and ICE perfectly aware that those people are in uncertain limbo. When Barak Obama introduced deferred action to protect young undocumented people he still continues to ignore the issue of statelessness. Stateless persons deserve as much deferred action as those undocumented immigrants. The difference between them are, those with current protection are citizens of their countries but stateless people are not citizens nor nationals of any state under the operation of their law. We continue to punish them, mentally torture them, force them to report to ICE constantly, not showing any compassion to their struggle for identity, refuse to grant them the basic right of movement and travel. That’s not justice, that is clear violation of all international obligation US Government committed to.

Most member nations of the UN signed and ratified 1954 Convention with the purpose of protecting and aiding statelessness in their territory by issuing passports and travel documents for those who suffer with lack of citizenship and nationality, granting them the same rights and assistance as any other lawful citizens of their countries. This shows the tremendous job the government of those nations did and still do to fulfill their obligation and adhere to the international standards of treaty and declarations they signed. But here we have the most powerful, democratic nation on earth, the United States of America that deliberately denies any rights and protections of statelessness population in their own country. What makes US so different from Germany, Switzerland, France, UK, and others signatory members of 1954 Convention? Why people who are not citizens or nationals of any country, and who found themselves on the territory of members of 1954 Convention enjoy full freedom of protection, freedom of movement but those stateless people in the United States are forced into the shadow, denied any rights? Aren’t they humans as well? Why we keep them invisible? Sometimes I think why some people commit crime, why some people are engaged in treason, etc. Well, basically if you look at the fate of some people, particularly stateless people, who are mentally tortured by the government, who can’t get recognized by the state they are living in, and become desperate, angry, loosing self-control, frustrated with the system by developing hate against not only themselves but the whole humanity, loosing any dignity and become hopeless, you will understand why some of them are pushed to the extreme measures of committing any type of crime just because they are not counted, they found themselves absolutely useless with no protection from the broken system, from the country that advocates human rights protection across the ocean in foreign land but built a wall of injustice within its territories.

1954 Convention entitling stateless people to minimum standards of treatment, and by ignoring this Convention and practically refusing to sign this document we are forcing our nation to violate the human rights of people who live in limbo that last indefinitely. And why? Just because US provides right to Americans to renounce their citizenship? Well, if this nation wants to promote statelessness instead of reducing statelessness, what else should be told? If US stands on their obligation to allow their citizens to renounce citizenship, what this has to do with many stateless people who came from their former non-existing countries and found themselves stateless in the United States? They work, they have social security, they pay taxes, they assimilated in the United States, they are not criminals, they studied, some of them opened businesses, and this country is the only country they consider home. They did not renounce their citizenship voluntarily, they were stripped by their former governments, and here we are, safe and civilized country that continues the policy of former countries who left their citizens unprotected, the safe country that promotes statelessness on their own soil. Is this real? Is this some sort of mistake? Can this be in the country that supports freedom and justice, the country that stands for humanity, the country that promote peace, the country that provides humanitarian aids to the struggled nations, to the war torn apart nations? Yes, this is true. This is reality, and this is happening here, in the land of immigrants, in the land of freedom, in the land of opportunity, in the land of ideals and values, in the land given to us by God to protect humanity, the land that was shaped by immigrants who brought their knowledge, their wisdom, their skills, their education to have this country rise to the most successful and most powerful nation on earth. It is shameful that the United States, this Government, those old folks at the Congress and most Republicans who continue to enjoy the full spectrum of their freedom, left others to struggle to be recognized, to deny them the basic rights and have their eyes closed on the issue of statelessness, their fundamental human rights. This is basically a genocide against stateless persons.

Have you ever felt helpless and frustrated? Doing everything you can to fix your situation just to be, at least, a little happier, but all your efforts are getting crushed. Have you ever gotten to that point where you are just DONE and feel you cannot do anything else, but take your own life or commit some evil act? if you have, then you understand what stateless people in the United States or elsewhere are going through. Despite all their efforts to be recognized and become lawful permanent residents or citizens in the country they lived for so many years, there continues to be so much laxity on the part of the government.

The United States Government should and must implement the amendments in their Immigration and Nationality Act in protection and reduction of statelessness in the United States, or provision in granting citizenship to stateless people with long-term residency in this country. The other option is to join and ratify UN 1954 Convention as soon as possible in order to stop discrimination of stateless persons in the United States. There is no other way around this.


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