After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last month that the Justice Department would be tightening the criteria for those claiming asylum, the pro-open borders legacy media sprang into action. Rather than have an intellectual debate on the merits of the change, they predictably found and promoted a series of victims. The sad faces and tales of misery portrayed in the coverage tugged at the heartstrings and lead readers to one conclusion: the only reason Sessions enacted this policy is because he is mean-spirited and doesn’t like women and small children. It’s time to put aside this knee-jerk emotionalism and confront the realities of the issue.
President Trump often talks about the loopholes in our immigration laws, and there is no better example than asylum laws. Unlike others seeking entry into the United States, those requesting asylum do so based on the honor system. The applicant need only assert persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution in their homeland by the government (or a non-governmental actor that the government is unwilling or unable to control) based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. No proof of persecution is required, and would be nearly impossible to acquire if it even existed. This “credible fear” standard is easily met and has allowed many illegitimate claimants to remain in the country. So the United States is expected to accept people about whom little is known and based on claims that may or may not be true. In terms of what is good for America, that is a high-risk, low-reward proposition.
It gets worse. Asylum seekers are, by definition, those who have already entered the United States to request protection. The law of the land states that all asylum petitioners, the merits of their claims notwithstanding, must have their cases adjudicated. As the system has been overwhelmed with more applicants than it can detain, the overflow are released within the United States. The Executive Office for Immigration Review currently has over 312,000 cases with pending asylum applications. Those applicants are expected, again on the honor system, to appear at a future date for their hearing. Is it a shock to anyone that few ever show up?
This inept process has created a back door into the United States, and the world has taken notice. Seven years ago the number of arriving aliens claiming credible fear was one out every 100. Today it is one out of every ten. The backlog in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services affirmative asylum process has grown by more than 1,900 percent since the end of fiscal year 2012. Did the world get exponentially more cruel and dangerous in just the last few years? More likely is that groups seeking a borderless United States discovered a loophole ripe for exploitation and have been coaching waves of foreigners on how to game the system.
Our courts have been complicit in the exploitation as well, since the criteria for asylum has creeped beyond the written law. In 2000 a federal court held that a Filipino “whistleblower” who stayed in the U.S. illegally qualified for asylum because he could face persecution if he returned to his country. Others claim asylum based on spousal abuse, persecution based on sexual orientation or they fear violence from drug gangs in their home countries. While these are all lamentable situations, none of them are legitimate causes for asylum based on the law. With that in mind, Sessions recently overturned a line of decisions by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that granted asylum to those who claimed domestic violence under the “particular social group” classification of the law.
Did Sessions overrule the BIA decisions because he is uncaring to victims of domestic violence? No. The fact is that broadening the asylum criteria would result in genuine asylum seekers being crowded out of the process and denied refuge. Like many areas of immigration law, our asylum process is in desperate need of overhaul. The adjudication time needs to be shortened. Applicants who arrive in the U.S. via another safe country should not be admitted. Illegal aliens in the deportation process should not be allowed to file asylum claims. Those are just some of the remedies that can be applied to stop this manipulation of our laws and sovereignty.
Is America still a compassionate nation? Of course it is, and we should continue to be a safe haven to those who legitimately meet the conditions for asylum. Allowing widespread fraud and exploitation of our asylum process, however, serves neither the new asylum arrivals nor the American citizens who welcome them.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Also published at: Dale L. Wilcox, The Sessions DOJ is working to end the great asylum hustle, The Hill, July 20, 2018