Open Letter to U.S. and Canadian Government Officials

   John Ashcroft
   Attorney General
   Department of Justice
   Washington, DC 20536

   Secretary of State Colin Powell
   Department of State
   Washington, DC 20520

   Tom Ridge
   Assistant to the President for Homeland Security
   White House
   Washington, DC 20502

   Hon. Denis Coderre
   Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
   Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1L1

   Hon. John Manley
   Deputy Prime Minister
   House of Commons
   Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

   August 15, 2002

   Dear Sirs:

   We, the undersigned U.S. and Canadian nongovernmental organizations concerned about the rights of
   refugees and asylum seekers, are writing to express our firm opposition to the draft "safe third country"
   agreement. The draft agreement between the governments of the United States and Canada for cooperation in
   the examination of refugee status claims from nationals of third countries is overly broad and its exceptions
   unduly limited. It will create a whole new bureaucracy that is unnecessary, inefficient, and unfair to refugees
   and their families.

   While there are real questions about the lawfulness of such an agreement under international law, we also
   question the need for such an agreement at all, since there does not currently appear to be a problem with
   persons seeking asylum in both the United States and Canada. The stated reason for the agreement in the
   December 3, 2001 Joint Statement on Border Security was "to limit the access of asylum seekers, under
   appropriate circumstances, to the system of only one of the two countries." Yet no evidence has been
   presented to suggest that the relatively few persons who lodge claims in both countries do so with the
   intention of abusing either system.

   Anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly indicates that most people who apply for asylum in the United States and
   later apply in Canada did so because, while always intending to file a claim in Canada, they were apprehended
   in the United States and applied only to avoid deportation and obtain release from detention. Once released,
   they ordinarily do not show up for removal hearings, but rather travel to Canada, showing their intention not to
   seek asylum in both countries, but only in Canada. Immigration officials on both sides of the border recognize
   this reality and, in practice, work with local NGOs to facilitate persons attempting to cross the U.S.-Canadian
   border to claim asylum. The system currently works with minimal coercion or conflict and, in fact, is helpful in
   addressing any security concerns, because it ensures that we can identify and track persons crossing the

   The draft agreement rests on the idea that, in general, the asylum claim must be filed in the country of last
   presence, and that officials will examine certain exceptions to that rule, based on family ties and other factors.
   We believe that this will create additional bureaucracy, long delays, increased costs, and disputes between the
   US and Canada that currently do not exist. In effect, it will force an estimated 15,000 persons per year to file
   asylum claims in the United States despite their efforts to seek asylum in Canada, adding a large, unwilling
   number of claimants into the U.S. caseload.

   Within a closed system of two states, a far simpler and fairer system would be to allow the third-country
   nationals themselves to choose in which country to lodge their asylum claims. This approach would conform
   with UNHCR Executive Committee Conclusion 15, which states that "the intentions of the asylum seeker
   should as far as possible be taken into account" with respect to the choice of country where asylum is claimed,
   and that "asylum should not be refused solely on the ground that it could be sought from another state." The
   only exception contemplated is for persons with a "close link" in another country where, if it appears fair and
   reasonable, a person may be called upon to request asylum.

   The "country of last presence" does not establish such a close link. On the contrary, it could be quite
   transitory and inconsequential. In contrast, existing law in the United States only renders ineligible for asylum
   persons who have been "firmly resettled" in another country. (See Immigration and Nationality Act
   §208(b)(2)(A)(6).) Canadian law deems a claim ineligible if the claimant has been recognized as a Convention
   refugee in another country and "can be sent or returned to that country" (See Immigration and Refugee
   Protection Act, §101(1)(d).) In both cases, this suggests conformity with the international principle of a "close
   link," and certainly does not suggest anything as ephemeral as mere presence in another country as a ground
   for barring examination of an asylum claim.

   Refugees have many reasons for seeking asylum in one country rather than another. Often they wish to join
   existing communities of support that will help them to heal, recover, and integrate into a new society. Family
   exceptions in the draft agreement do not necessarily capture such ties. Also, refugees may choose one country
   over another because one is more receptive to asylum seekers than the other. In several respects, U.S.
   treatment of asylum seekers does not meet minimum standards. The United States bars asylum applicants from
   working for six months after applying for asylum, does not provide legal assistance for applicants that is
   usually available to them in Canada, has bars to asylum that do not exist in Canada, such as filing deadlines,
   and is more likely to detain than Canada. The United States also more narrowly interprets refugee law on issues
   such as gender-based claims, raising the prospect that the United States might return to persecution a claimant
   whom Canada would have protected.

   Not only would this agreement, as drafted, lead to increased inefficiencies, burdens, and delays. It would also
   undermine orderly and secure procedures at the border. Currently, those wishing to claim refugee status
   present themselves in an orderly fashion at the border for examination by Canadian officials. When that door is
   closed, desperate refugees will try to get across irregularly, putting themselves in the hands of traffickers and
   becoming victimized yet again.

   Such an agreement would also provide a harmful example for other countries lacking the resources and legal
   traditions of Canada and the United States. It sends a message that could encourage other countries to enter
   into so-called safe third-country agreements that would more likely shirk and shift burdens than share them.
   We urge that the agreement be abandoned.

   Mulugeta Abai
   Executive Director
   Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
   194 Jarvis Street 2nd floor
   Toronto, ON

   Eleanor Acer
   Asylum Project Director
   Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
   333 Seventh Avenue 13th Floor
   New York, NY

   Leticia Adair
   Fundy Refugee Support Coalition
   1 Bayard Drive
   Saint John, NB

   Catherine Balfour
   Refugee Coordinator
   Amnesty International Canadian Section
   56 Temperance Street, 8th floor
   Toronto, ON

   Bill Bernstein
   North Texas Immigration Coalition
   4144 N. Central Expressway, Suite 530
   Dallas, TX

   Andrea Black
   Executive Director
   The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project
   300 South Main Street, P.O. Box 654
   Florence, AZ

   Bernard Bohmert
   200 rue de Salaberry
   Joliette, QC

   Caroline Boudreau
   Secrétaire de l'EUMC-Laval
   Pavillon Maurice-Pollack, Pavillon 2220
   Université Laval
   Sainte-Foy, QC

   Katherine Brady
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Immigrant Legal Resource Center
   Mission St., Suite 601
   San Francisco, CA

   Jeanne A. Butterfield
   Executive Director
   American Immigration Lawyers Association
   918 F Street NW
   Washington, DC

   Jacqueline Bradley Chacon
   Justice for Our Neighbors-UMCOR
   100 Maryland Avenue, Suite 410
   Washington, DC

   Herb Castillo
   Executive Director
   International Institute of the East Bay
   297 Lee St
   Oakland, CA

   Andreé Côté
   Director of Legislation and Law Reform
   National Association of Women and the Law
   1 rue Nicholas, Suite 604
   Ottawa, ON

   Michael Smith & Laila Demirdache
   Staff Lawyers
   Community Legal Services
   1 Nicholas Street, Suite 422
   Ottawa, ON

   Janet Dench
   Canadian Council for Refugees
   6839 Drolet #302
   Montréal, QC

   Zahra Dhanani
   Staff Lawyer
   Immigration and Refugee Division/Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
   489 College Street, Suite 503
   Toronto, ON

   Lidia Diaz
   Canadian Latin-American Association
   706 Clark Dr.
   Vancouver, BC

   Patricia Diaz
   Policy Director
   SIREN-Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network
   778 North First Street, Suite 202
   San Jose, CA

   Dejan Dokic
   Lutheran Social Services of Michigan
   Refugee and Immigration Service
   21700 Northwestern Hwy Suite 820
   Southfield, MI

   Dustin W. Dyer, Esq.
   McDonald Dyer, P.C.
   Attorneys & Counselors at Law
   1320 West Main Street
   Richmond, VA

   Westy Egmont
   Executive Director
   International Institute of Boston
   One Milk Street
   Boston, MA

   Jeff Elzinga
   Senior Program Officer
   Student Refugee Sponsorship
   Campus Engagement Program (CPEP)
   World University Service of Canada (WUSC)
   1404 Scott Street
   Ottawa, ON

   Jason Erb
   Director, Government Relations
   Council on American-Islamic Relations
   453 New Jersey Avenue, SE
   Washington, DC

   Kathleen Erickson
   Women's Intercultural Center
   P.O.Box 2411
   Anthony, MI

   Nancy Falgout
   Attorney at Law
   P.O. Box 7873
   Houston, TX

   Mark Franken
   Executive Director
   Migration and Refugee Services /United States
   Conference of Catholic Bishops
   3211 4th Street NE
   Washington, DC

   Erika Fuchs
   Building Bridges Human Rights Project
   Vancouver, BC

   Élisabeth Garant
   Le Centre Justice et Foi
   25 rue Jarry O
   Montréal, QC

   Patrick Giantonio
   Executive Director
   Vermont Refugee Assistance
   73 Main Street, Box 19
   Montpelier, VT

   Denise Gilman
   Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project
   Washington Lawyers' Committee
   11 Dupont Circle, Suite 400
   Washington, DC

   Leonard Glickman
   President& CEO
   Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
   333 Seventh Avenue 17th floor
   New York, NY

   Avvy Yao-Yao Go
   Clinic Director
   Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
   180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1701
   Toronto, ON

   Rick Goldman
   Staff Lawyer
   Project Genesis
   Côte Ste. Catherine
   Montréal, QC

   Gittel Gordon
   3215 Ocean Front Walk
   Marina del Rey, CA

   Wilfred Grimard
   Comité d'Accueil International des Bois-Francs
   Place Rita-Saint-Pierre 59, Rue Monfette # 246
   Victoriaville, QC

   Kenn J. Hale
   Executive Director
   South Etobicoke Community Legal Services
   5353 Dundas Street East, Suite 210
   Toronto, ON

   Prof. James C. Hathaway
   Program in Refugee and Asylum Law
   University of Michigan Law School*
   Ann Arbor, MI

   Karen Hanscom PhD
   Advocates for Survivors of Torture Trauma
   431E. Belvedere Avenue
   Baltimore, MD

   Gail Hoffman
   President & CEO
   The Bridging the Gap Project
   77 Forsyth Street, SW, Suite 100
   Atlanta, GA

   J. Holloway
   Immigration Outreach Service Center
   St. Matthew Catholic Church
   5401 Loch Raven Boulevard
   Baltimore, MD

   Sarah Ignatius
   Executive Director
   Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project
   14 Beacon Street, #804A
   Boston, MA

   Marion Irvine, OP
   Promoter of Social Justice
   Dominican Sisters of San Rafael 1520 Grand Avenue
   San Rafael, CA

   Majed Jafari
   Director, Government Relations
   Arab American Institute 1600 K Street, NW Suite 601
   Washington, DC

   Marian Lucas Jeffries
   Primate's World Relief and Development Fund
   Fredericton Diocese, NB

   Dr. Pary Karadaghi
   Executive Director
   Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Inc.
   10560 Main Street, Suite 207
   Fairfax, VA

   Angela M. Kelley
   Deputy Director for Programs
   National Immigration Forum
   220 I Street NE, Suite 220
   Washington, DC

   Timothy J. Kelly, MSW
   Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma
   Baltimore, MD

   Alan Khalil
   Board Member
   International Immigration & Refugee Ministry
   4435 W. Fullerton
   Chicago, IL

   David Koelsch
   Freedom House
   2630 W. Lafayette
   Detroit, MI

   Dan Kosten
   Director of Refugee Programs
   World Relief
   7 East Baltimore Street
   Baltimore, MD

   Daniel M. Kowalski
   Tindall & Foster, P.C.
   100 Congress Avenue, Suite 1500
   Austin, TX

   Jean-Robert Lafortune, MS
   Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition
   P.O. Box 381416
   Miami, FL

   Winifred Langeard
   Centre d'Orientation Paralégale et Sociale pour Immigrants
   4893 St-Dominique
   Montréal, QC

   Christina Leddin
   Amigos Center
   3634 Central Ave.
   Fort Myer, FL

   Mary Jo Leddy
   Romero House
   1558 Bloor Street West
   Toronto, ON

   Irena Lieberman
   Director of Legal Services
   Tahirih Justice Center
   PO Box 7638
   Falls Church, VA

   Lavinia Limón
   Executive Director
   Immigration & Refugee Services of America/ U.S. Committee for Refugees
   1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 200
   Washington, DC

   Vanessa Melendez Lucas
   Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
   Children and Family Justice Center
   Northwestern University School of Law
   357 E. Chicago Ave.
   Chicago, IL.

   Susan Lydon
   Immigrant Legal Resource Center
   1663 Mission Street, Suite 602
   San Francisco, CA

   Angie Martz, scic
   KAIROS Saint John
   St. Vincent's John
   Saint John, NE

   Elizabeth Matos
   Immigration Policy Coordinator
   Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition
   105 Chauncy Street, 19th Floor
   Boston, MA

   Rodrick A. McDowell, Esq.
   President, Board of Directors
   Fort Erie Multicultural Centre
   55 Jarvis Street
   Fort Erie, ON

   Kamy Moghbeli
   Bethehem Lutheran Church
   1375 Grand Ave.
   Baldwin, NY

   Sid L. Mohn
   Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
   208 S. LaSalle
   Chicago, IL

   Nicholas V. Montalto, Ph.D
   Executive Director
   International Institute of New Jersey
   880 Bergen Avenue
   Jersey City, NJ

   Elsa Tesfay Musa
   Refugee/Emergency Relief Coordinator
   Primate's World Relief and Development Fund
   Anglican Church of Canada
   600 Jarvis Street
   Toronto, ON

   Karen Musalo
   Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
   U.C. Hastings College of the Law 200 McAllister Street
   San Francisco, CA

   Adeena Niazi
   Afghan Women's Organization
   2333 Dundas Street West, Suite 205
   Toronto, ON

   Chris Owens
   Executive Director
   50 Wyoming Avenue
   Buffalo, NY

   André Paradis
   Directeur Général
   Ligue des Droits et Libertés
   65 rue de Castelnau Ouest
   Bureau 301
   Montréal, QC

   Richard Parkins
   Episcopal Migration Ministries
   815 Second Avenue
   New York, NY

   Robin Phillips
   Executive Director
   Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
   310 4th Avenue South, Suite 1000
   Minneapolis, MN

   Stephen Reichhold
   Table de Concertation des Organismes au Service des
   Personnes Réfugiées et Immigrantes
   518 Beaubien Est
   Montréal, QC

   Joe Roberson
   Church World Service/IRP
   475 Riverside Drive
   New York, NY

   Dawn Robichaud
   Council of Canadians
   Saint John Chapter
   1 Bayard Drive
   Saint John, NB

   Maria Rodriguez
   Executive Director
   Youth Co-Op, Inc.
   3525 NW 7th Street
   Miami, FL

   Walter R. Rodriguez
   Immigration Counselor
   FIRN (Foreign-born Information and Referral Network)
   5999 Harpers Farm Road, Suite E-200
   Columbia, MD

   Leonard S. Rubenstein
   Executive Director
   Physicians for Human Rights
   1156 15th Street NW, Suite 1001
   Washington, DC

   Fr. Rick Ryscavage SJ
   National Director
   Jesuit Refugee Service
   1616 P Street NW, Suite 400
   Washington, DC

   Charu Newhouse al-Sahli
   Detention Advocacy Coordinator
   Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center
   3000 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 400
   Miami, FL

   Sandra Sanchez
   Iowa Immigrant Rights Project
   4211 Grand Avenue
   Des Moines, IA

   Deborah Ann Sanders
   Executive Director
   Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition
   415 Michigan Avenue, N.E.
   Washington, DC

   Andrew Schoenholtz
   Director of Law and Policy Studies
   Institute for the Study of International Migration
   Georgetown University*
   Washington, DC

   William F. Schulz
   Executive Director
   Amnesty International USA
   322 8th Avenue
   New York, NY

   Jonathan Scop
   Attorney/Program Manager
   Catholic Charities Immigration Services
   231 SE 12th Avenue
   Portland, OR

   Kareem W. Shora, JD, LL.M.
   Legal Advisor
   American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
   4201 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 300
   Washington, DC

   James J. Silk
   Executive Director
   Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights
   Yale Law School*
   New Haven, CT

   Morton Sklar
   Executive Director
   World Organization Against Torture USA
   1725 K Street NW, Suite 610
   Washington, DC

   Helene T. Smith
   Executive Director
   The International Center of the Capital Region, Inc.
   Albany, NY

   Philip Smith
   Hecht & Smith, LLP
   208 SW 1st Avenue, Suite 360
   Portland, OR

   Lisa Reiner-Sotelo, Esq.
   161-10 Jamaica Ave., Suite 610
   Jamaica, NY

   Major June Speakman
   Assistant Director
   The Salvation Army Immigrant & Refugee Services Center
   148 Jarvis Street, 2nd Floor
   Toronto, ON

   Paul Stein
   Executive Director
   Rocky Mountain Survivors Center
   1547 Gaylord Street
   Denver, CO

   Beth Stickney, Esq.
   Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
   One India Street
   Portland, ME

   Anna Stuart
   Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
   815 16th Street, NW
   Washington, DC

   Tsehaye Teferra, Ph.D
   Ethiopian Community Development Council
   1038 S. Highland Street
   Arlington, VA

   Tin Myaing Thein, Ph.D.
   Executive Director
   Pacific Gateway Center
   720 North King Street
   Honolulu, HI

   Michael J. Tilleard
   Barrister & Solicitor
   700-Transalta Place
   10150-100 Street
   Edmonton, AB

   Fred Tsao
   Immigration and Citizenship Coordinator
   Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
   36 S. Wabash, Suite 1425
   Chicago, IL

   John Urquhart
   Executive Director
   The Council for Canadians
   502-151 rue Slater Street
   Ottawa, ON

   Karine Verreault
   Centre Multiethnique de Québec
   369 de la Courronne 3e etage
   Quebec, QC

   Metty Vithayathil
   Executive Director
   Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center
   York, PA

   Peter A. Vogelaar
   Executive Director
   Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees
   309 Genesee Street
   Utica, NY

   Grey Wangerin
   Executive Director
   Inter Church Refugee and Immigration Ministries
   9753 N. Broadway, Suite 401
   Chicago, IL

   Susan Weishar, Ph.D.
   Immigration and Refugee Services
   Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans
   New Orleans, LA

   Glynis Williams
   Action Réfugiés Montréal
   1410 rue Guy, Suite 25
   Montréal, QC

   Annie Wilson
   Acting President
   Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
   700 Light Street
   Baltimore, MD

   Wendy Young
   Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children
   3405 Arnold Lane
   Falls Church, VA

   * Institutions listed with an asterisk are for informational purposes only, and the endorsers are the individuals.
   In all other cases, the signers represent institutional endorsements.