Most Reverend Ricardo Ramirez
Bishop of Las Cruces
Member, Advisory Committee

May 1999

The Final Report of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad is a significant accomplishment and a serious contribution to the public discussion on a vitally important issue. The report provides a set of principles, guidelines, and concrete proposals that, if implemented, would go far in making religious freedom a more integral part of U.S. foreign policy.

As chairman of the Committee's Asylum/ Refugee Working Group, I want to highlight, in particular, the Final Report's important proposals for improving the U.S. government's treatment of those seeking asylum based on grounds of religious persecution

  • The Final Report recommends that "expedited removal" -- the process whereby INS inspection officers may summarily remove those requesting asylum -- be repealed.

  • The Final Report urges INS to review its policies regarding detention, particularly the practice of some districts of detaining asylum seekers even after they have established a credible fear of persecution if they are returned to their country of origin.

  • The Final Report welcomes steps already taken and urges new efforts to ensure that those who make decisions about asylum are adequately trained and informed about the problem of religious persecution around the world.

These and other changes recommended in the Final Report would ensure more just treatment, not just for those persecuted because of their religion, but also those persecuted for political, racial or other reasons.

I commend the President for establishing this Committee and the State Department for supporting its important work. I hope that the Final Report will receive wide circulation and will contribute to more effective work by the U.S. government and many others in support of the many people of all faiths who suffer simply because of their religion.