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Immigration Law

Expert: Hong Kong Refugee Designation a "Political Statement"

Robert Delaney, South China Morning Post, Oct. 2, 2020

"The US state department announced the inclusion of Hong Kong for the first time in its annual refugee admissions proposal, a move that follows a series of actions taken by Washington in response to a Chinese national security law that threatens pro-democracy activists in the city.

The announcement on Wednesday said that the state department was prioritising “people who have suffered or fear persecution on the basis of religion; for Iraqis whose assistance to the United States has put them in danger; for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; and for refugees from Hong Kong, Cuba and Venezuela”.

The move comes as US legislation meant to welcome more Hongkongers facing prosecution moves rapidly through the House of Representatives.

The more significant aspects of the state department’s announcement are the message it sends to Beijing and how much it has lowered the refugee cap, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School.

The announcement, he said, was “basically a political statement that [the US government] opposes the governments of Hong Kong, Cuba and Venezuela, so we’re identifying those countries specifically in this document.

“But it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who claims persecution in those countries is going to be able to actually enter the United States as a refugee,” he said."