New legislation, entitled “S.2960: Refugee Opportunity Act is scheduled for debate this week in the U.S. Congress.

Introduced by ranking Foreign Relations Committee members Patrick Leahy (D-MI) and Richard Luger (R-IN) the potential law will allow for refugees who work for the U.S. abroad to become exempt from the requirement that they be physically present inside the United States for one year before their naturalization process begins.

Here is part of the statement made by Senator Leahy upon Introduction of the Legislation back in January:

Today I introduce the Refugee Opportunity Act, legislation that builds upon this strong commitment by correcting an unfortunate limitation under current law. The immigration statute requires a refugee who is resettled in the United States to remain on U.S. soil for a full year in order to adjust to lawful permanent residence. For many, this requirement presents no obstacles. The majority of resettled refugees immediately begin to work, learn English, and contribute to their local communities. Yet, the one-year physical presence requirement poses a significant barrier to resettled refugees who are eager and willing to serve the United States Government overseas, whether as an engineer, a translator, or in some other meaningful capacity. Accepting such employment will result in the delay of a refugee’s ability to adjust his or her status and fully integrate into our society. There is no logical reason to deter these refugees from taking U.S.-affiliated positions overseas, especially when they seek to serve the Government that has offered them protection.

One example of such a case can be found in the story of Mr. Ahmed Alrais. Mr. Alrais came to the United States as a refugee with his family after he worked as an interpreter for the United States Army in Iraq. His work for the Army led to threats against his life, and the United States appropriately granted him refugee status. But then, after struggling to find work in the Chicago area, and wanting to provide for his family, Mr. Alrais decided to again face the risks of working in Iraq. He joined the staff of a U.S. Army contractor and began to work on a military base in Iraq. Ironically, taking this risk has delayed his ability to earn lawful permanent residence in the United States because the Department of Homeland Security will not give him credit toward the one year physical presence requirement for the time he has spent working with the Army contractor in Iraq. If he had remained in the United States for a full year unemployed he would not have been penalized under the immigration law. By choosing to work, to support his family, and serve our Nation’s military effort in Iraq, he has sacrificed months toward obtaining a green card.

To recognize the past and future contributions of refugees like Mr. Alrais, this legislation proposes to create an exception in our immigration law to waive the continuous presence requirement for any refugee who, during their first year of residence in the United States, accepts employment overseas to aid the United States Government. This legislation will not only recognize the commendable actions of refugees who wish to honor the United States by working for our Government overseas. It will also enrich our Government’s military and diplomatic missions by drawing upon the professional and language skills of refugees. Finally, this bill will encourage more refugees to assist the United States’ efforts abroad. These are goals we should all support.

h/t MicEvHill: This Week in Immigration and Refugee Related Legislation

ImmigrationProf Blog: Refugee Opportunity Act

  • Published: 14 years ago on April 26, 2010
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  • Last Modified: April 26, 2010 @ 2:08 pm
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  1. Sabah says:

    I think this is a good decision IF this will be applied only on those who worked with the US Army in Iraq and came here as refugees.

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