Requests for asylum based on "credible fear" claims don't seem credible

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is the Department of Justice division responsible for adjudicating all immigration cases in the U.S. Towards the end of April, the EOIR published a PowerPoint presentation giving persuasive evidence that illegal immigrants seeking to avoid deportation by seeking asylum have abused that privilege.

The exclusive subject of the EOIR study are illegal immigrants who seek asylum based on a claim of credible fear. The infographic traces through the process by which only 13 percent of such claims are approved by immigration judges.

What is ‘credible fear’?

When a person enters the U.S. illegally and is apprehended by Customs and Border Protection, he is asked whether he has a credible fear of returning to his home country. The alien must have a well-founded fear of persecution or torture, on account of belonging to one of various protected groups. If the answer is affirmative, he is referred to an asylum officer for a credible fear interview; a type of interview which is only conducted with candidates for deportation.

The credible fear interview does not produce a final determination. It is used to determine whether the applicant has, at first impression, a plausible case for being granted asylum. If a favorable decision is made, the asylum officer issues a Notice To Appear (NTA), directing the applicant to appear in an immigration court for his removal hearing, during which the applicant needs to make his case for being granted asylum in full detail.

DHS Notice to Appear, Form I-862
DHS Notice To Appear (Form I-862)

Removal proceedings

On the date of the scheduled removal hearing, the alien, or respondent, is expected to answer the charges recorded in the Notice To Appear. If the immigration judge rules in the respondent's favor, the respondent is eligible to apply for withholding of removal. The alien can, at that point, file an asylum application.

Failure to appear for the scheduled removal hearing results in an order of removal being entered in absentia by an immigration judge.

Only 13% of credible fear claimants are granted asylum

Now that the terms have been explained, the sequence illustrated in the Executive Office for Immigration Review Powerpoint presentation can be summarized as follows:

  • Of every 100 aliens who make an initial credible fear claim, 85 wind up presenting their claim in an EOIR removal proceeding.
  • Of those 85 cases heard by an immigration judge in a removal proceeding, 48 respondents have their claim accepted and proceed to file an asylum application.
  • From those 48 asylum applications arising from a credible fear claim, 13 aliens are granted asylum in the United States.

The implication is that the overwhelming majority of credible fear claims are only made to gain entry into the United States, and are not based on a factual credible fear of persecution or torture.