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DHS Figures Show How Long-Shot Asylum Claims Have Become A Ticket To Stay In The US


by Will Racke

Far fewer than half of the immigrants found to have a “credible fear” of persecution in their home countries are sent back within three years, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) figures provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation on Monday.

Of petitioners initially found to have a credible fear in fiscal year 2014, 39 percent were repatriated by the end of fiscal 2017, while just 10 percent of people who arrived in family units were returned within the same time frame. Only three percent of non-Mexican unaccompanied alien children were repatriated in three years or fewer, according to the DHS statistics.

Meanwhile, rates of denial for asylum claims were particularly high for people from countries producing the most asylum applicants. Between 2012 and 2017, 88 percent of petitioners from Mexico, 79 percent from El Salvador, 78 percent from Honduras and 75 percent from Guatemala were rejected, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

“Meritless asylum claims are being made to exploit a loophole to avoid expedited removal from the United States,”

Even with such high rates of denial, the number of migrants claiming credible fear has soared over the past decade. From 2008 to 2016, the number of credible fear cases handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services increased by 1,700 percent, according to DHS.

The figures indicate many migrants view the asylum process as a way to remain in the U.S. for long periods while their cases play out in immigration court, creating a pull factor for illegal immigration, a DHS official told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Meritless asylum claims are being made to exploit a loophole to avoid expedited removal from the United States,” the official said in an email. “Word has spread, and more and more illegal migrants are claiming asylum in order to gain access to our country.”

Under current immigration law, migrants in the U.S. without authorization — either arrested while crossing the border illegally or detained at ports of entry — can say they are fleeing persecution and demand to petition for asylum. If they do, they are interviewed by asylum officers, who determine which claims are legitimate and should continue in immigration court.

Aliens who are found to have a credible fear are scheduled for asylum hearings, which can sometimes be years in the future. Asylum seekers can be detained during the process, but they are more often paroled into the U.S. due to a lack of available detention space.

President Donald Trump’s administration has criticized the credible fear process, arguing it is easily abused by migrants presenting spurious claims and contributes to a massive backlog of more than 690,000 cases in immigration courts. It is one of several “loopholes” Trump has demanded Congress address — along with provisions of immigration law that mandate “catch-and-release” policies.

Asylum officers approved credible fear for more than three out of every four claimants in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, according to a report from the Asylum Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Credible fear was found in 75 percent of cases in October 2017, 77 percent of cases in November 2017, and 78 percent of cases in December 2017.

When so-called “administrative closures” are factored out, the rates jump to 90 percent of cases in October and November — 89 percent of cases in December — according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

Other publicly available data supports the Trump administration’s contention that the low bar for credible fear is a powerful draw for migrants like those who arrived in late April in a well-publicized caravan. Until 2013, roughly one out of 100 arriving aliens claimed credible fear, according to DHS figures released in April. By 2017, that ratio had risen to roughly one out of 10 — meaning an unauthorized alien who arrived that year was 10 times as likely to claim credible fear as one who arrived just four years prior.

The more frequent invocation of credible fear has come as the demographics of illegal immigration have changed in recent years. Before 2011, over 90 percent of arriving aliens were single men; but today, roughly 40 percent are families and children. Likewise, as recently as 2009, about 90 percent of aliens detained at the border were Mexican nationals; but today, about half are Central Americans.

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