Uyghurs seeking relief from outside the U.S. — typically from third countries, since China has all but stopped allowing Uyghurs to leave — face a whole different set of obstacles. In fiscal 2021, the U.S. did not resettle any Uyghurs through its refugee resettlement program.
“We have to work with our partners and allies,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., who sponsored the House version of the Rubio and Coons bill. “We have to work with the other countries to make sure again that the Uyghurs who are in those countries are taken care of and have the opportunity to seek asylum status here.”
Last in, first out
Uyghurs like Alim face their own set of difficulties tied to what critics call a misguided asylum system that unfairly excludes people who have waited the longest. Asylum claims are heard on a “last in, first out” basis, meaning that people who have applied for asylum recently are more likely to have their applications adjudicated quickly.
That policy began in January 2018, in an effort to stem the growth of the asylum backlog and deter applicants trying to use the asylum backlog to obtain employment authorization. But it also means applications like Alim’s have been effectively deprioritized.
“Once the policy was changed to ‘last in, first out,’ you face the obvious question of, well, what happens to those applicants that submitted their applications back in 2014? 2015? 2016?” said Farida Chehata, a managing attorney at Human Rights First.