A new Trump administration tactic for expediting fraudulent asylum claims
Until recently, the label ‘asylum seeker’ was understood to mean that a person had arrived legally in the United States and had sought asylum. This was done by filing a claim that they suffer persecution in their home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group or political opinion.
In U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) terminology this procedure is called the ‘affirmative asylum’ process.
There is an alternative route to asylum, wherein an alien enters the United States illegally and is caught, then removal proceedings begin. At that point, the alien speaks up and exclaims
Wait ... just wait a minute ... I request asylum in the United States of America! In USCIS terminology this is called ‘defensive asylum’.
Immigration advocates want to take advantage of U.S. asylum law
The ‘asylum seekers’ coming from Mexico and Central America are filing defensive asylum claims. First they are apprehended, then deportation proceedings begin, then, following the advice of human smugglers or U.S. attorneys who also make a livelihood off of migrants, they claim they are fleeing desperate conditions and request asylum.
This is why the migrants being are given ‘credible fear’ interviews before they appear before an immigration judge. Interviews to determine whether the applicant has a credible fear of persecution or torture are only given in defensive asylum cases.
In the 2nd quarter of fiscal year 2019, out of every 100 aliens who claimed credible fear, only 13 wound up being granted asylum. This demonstrates that migrants are, under the direction of advocates and legal advisers, attempting to take advantage of U.S. asylum law in order to do what they hoped to do in any case, which is to walk in and stay for a while, without ever applying for citizenship or permanent resident status.
A pilot program in El Paso expedites asylum claim processing
On October 24 the Washington Post published an article revealing that a pilot program had begun in El Paso, Texas, aiming to speed up the deportation of fraudulent asylum-seekers. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials contacted by the Washington Post, the pilot program expedites the asylum process so that claimants will receive a decision in 10 days or less, instead of the months or years the process currently takes.
An anonymous CBP official described the program as follows: Migrants who are apprehended and request asylum are given one day to call family or a lawyer. Then they have a credible fear interview with an asylum officer.
Immigration lawyers complain that attorneys are no longer allowed to meet with their clients in U.S. Border Patrol stations — contact is limited to brief phone conversations. Attorneys can be present at judicial review of credible fear findings, but are precluded from representing clients at the hearing itself.
If the asylum officer finds the claimants do not meet the credible-fear standard, the migrants can ask to ‘appear’ before an immigration judge by telephone. The migrants are then either processed for deportation or transferred over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), depending on the results of the credible fear interview and the immigration judge’s ruling.
Expansion of the pilot program to Texas' Rio Grande Valley was confirmed in late December by a Customs and Border Protection spokesman.
The inevitable lawsuits from the inevitable cast of characters
Formally, two programs have been initiated by CBP. Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PACR) applies to asylum-seekers from outside Mexico, and the Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP) pertains to Mexicans only.
In early December, a complaint against the programs was filed in D.C. federal court by an El Paso-based legal services nonprofit called the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU National, the ACLU of Texas, and the ACLU of the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit claims that asylum seekers are wrongfully being deprived of legal counsel by CBP, which “effectively denies all access” to attorneys during the initial screening process for asylum.
According to the complaint, the credible fear interview would typically be conducted when an ‘immigrant’ is transferred from CPB to ICE, which does provide a system to locate people in its custody. CBP facilities, on the other hand, are designed for short-term detention and not for people going through a legal process.
In essence, lawyers whose line of business is serving as professional ‘coyotes’ for illegal immigrants are worried about losing business.