Sessions Changes Requirements for Asylum
By Heather Ham-Warren | June 15, 2018
Undoubtedly, the years of failure to enforce federal immigration laws has led to an illegal immigration crisis in the United States. This crisis has only been further exacerbated by abuse of legal immigration loopholes, such as the rampant fraud in asylum claims. Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department’s decision to implement a zero-tolerance policy regarding illegal border crossings; and finally, this week, Sessions announced his decision to crack down on asylum fraud.
Asylum fraud received national attention in April of this year when a caravan of predominantly Central American migrants made their way to the southern border proudly flaunting their plans to claim asylum upon arrival. The group leading the caravan, known as Pueblo Sin Fronteras, boasted of their entitlement to American asylum benefits before they even arrived. Over time, economic migrants have learned magic words that trigger a series of actions meant to protect the most vulnerable of our neighbors. By claiming asylum, they are entitled to a credible fear hearing to determine if the alien has a credible fear or persecution in his/her home country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
Since 2014, “membership in a particular social group” has expanded to include victims of domestic or gang violence as members of the protected class. In announcing his decision to restrict asylum categories— returning them to the original intent— Sessions said that going forward, crimes such as domestic violence and gang-related attacks will not automatically entitle immigrants to asylum.
Statistics show that in 2009, DHS conducted 5,000 credible fear reviews. By 2016, that number had increased to 94,000. “The vast majority of the current asylum claims are not valid,” Sessions said in remarks Monday. “For the last five years, only 20 percent of claims have been found to be meritorious after a hearing before an immigration judge.”
“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote.
“In reaching these conclusions, I do not minimize the vile abuse that the respondent reported she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband or the harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world,” Sessions added.
At a time when resources are already scarce, it is crucial for asylum resources to be awarded to individuals most in need.