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Hearing of the House Judiciary Committee - Asylum Abuse: Is It Overwhelming Our Borders?

Location: Washington, DC

The United States of America is extremely hospitable to immigrants, asylees, and refugees. Our nation's record of generosity and compassion to people in need of protection from war, anarchy, natural disaster, and persecution is exemplary and easily the best in the world.

We have maintained a robust refugee resettlement system, taking in more United Nations designated refugees than all other countries combined. We grant asylum to tens of thousands of asylum seekers each year. We expect to continue this track record in protecting those who arrive here in order to escape persecution.
Unfortunately, however, because of our well justified reputation for compassion, many people are tempted to file fraudulent claims just so they can get a free pass into the United States.

The system becomes subject to abuse and fraud when the generous policies we have established are stretched beyond imagination by the Administration. It also becomes subject to abuse when people seek to take advantage of our generosity and game the system by identifying and exploiting loopholes.

Unfortunately, some advocacy groups have undertaken a strategy of staging public violations of immigration laws - in a brazen attempt to politicize the issue of immigration reform. They somehow seem to believe that this is productive. It is just the opposite. In one example, the so-called "Dream 9 and Dream 30" voluntarily crossed the border and returned to their home countries with orders of deportation. And just days later, pursuant to their plan, they were apprehended by border patrol and claimed they had a credible fear of returning to the very country to which they just intentionally self-deported. Political stunts like these demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the asylum process and damage credible claimants.

Unlawful or inadmissible aliens caught along the border or at ports of entry can claim a credible fear of persecution in order to seek a hearing before an immigration judge. Over the past several years, "credible fear" claims have been granted at ever growing rates. Currently, data provided by DHS shows that USCIS makes positive credible fear findings in 92% of all cases decided on the merits. Not surprisingly, credible fear claims have increased 586% from 2007 to 2013 as word has gotten out as to the virtual rubberstamping of applications.

Not only is the rise in credible fear claims concerning, the Administration is contributing to undermining our asylum system by failing to follow current law as it pertains to the asylum process. Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act, arriving aliens are subject to mandatory detention whether they are found to have credible fear or not until it is determined whether they have legitimate asylum claims. This crucial requirement is designed to prevent aliens from being released into our communities and then disappearing into the shadows.

The detention standard was enacted precisely because large numbers of arriving aliens were absconding after claiming asylum and being released. Under the statute and corresponding regulations, under limited circumstances "parole" from detention is available to meet a medical emergency or if it is necessary for a legitimate law enforcement objective.

However, these standards have been watered down by the current Administration via executive fiat. A December 8, 2009, policy directive issued by former ICE Director Morton provides that any arriving alien who has been found to have a credible fear and can establish identity and argue that they are not a flight risk or a danger to the community, should be released by ICE. This is inconsistent with the statute that requires detention except in very limited circumstances.

And not surprisingly, the timing of this memo appears to correlate with the uptick of credible fear claims in recent years. As a result of these lax detention standards and ease of being found to have a credible fear, claims have increased dramatically in recent years.

The stellar efforts of our Border Patrol agents are in vain if the aliens they apprehend are simply released into our communities. Once released, many of these aliens, particularly those with meager or invented claims of asylum, simply melt into the population. Critics allege that the purpose is not to obtain asylum, but rather to game the system by getting a free pass into the U.S. and a court date for which they do not plan to show up. Accounts indicate that aliens are being coached in the asylum process and are being taught to use certain terms to ensure that they are found to have a credible fear. According to critics many of these claims are often an orchestrated sham.

In addition to this alarming trend, the House Judiciary Committee recently obtained an internal CBP memo that states many people claiming a "credible fear" of persecution at our ports of entry have a direct or indirect association with drug trafficking and other illegal activity, such as human smuggling. Since there are intelligence gaps and loopholes in the system, the asylum process is often being abused by individuals who would otherwise be subjects of interest or subjects of criminal investigations. Once these unscrupulous individuals falsely claim a "credible fear" of persecution, there is virtually no investigation by U.S. authorities. Because the Obama Administration refuses to detain most of them, criminals and those who pose national security threats are then able to live and work in the U.S. for many years before their cases are ever heard by immigration judges.

Ultimately, the Administration is demonstrating its inability and lack of desire to enforce the law. The threat of infiltration by criminal elements and cartels is putting the American public at risk. These decisions are neither prudent nor wise. To make matters worse, they undermine the confidence in a secure border necessary to develop a common sense, step-by-step approach to improving our immigration laws. I look forward to getting to the bottom of this disturbing problem today.

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