A call to tighten asy­lum sys­tem

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SARI HOR­WITZ Maria Sacchetti and Matt Zapo­to­sky con­trib­uted to this re­port.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions cites “ram­pant abuse and fraud” in an ap­peal to Con­gress to act.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions called on Con­gress on Thurs­day to tighten the rules for peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum through a sys­tem he said is filled with “ram­pant abuse and fraud.”

In a speech at the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice for Im­mi­gra­tion Re­view, Ses­sions said the na­tion’s poli­cies al­low too many asy­lum seek­ers to ex­ploit loop­holes in a “bro­ken” and ex­tremely back­logged process.

“The sys­tem is be­ing gamed,” Ses­sions said. “Over the years, smart at­tor­neys have ex­ploited loop­holes in the law, court rul­ings and lack of re­sources to sub­stan­tially un­der­mine the in­tent of Con­gress. . . . There is no cost or risk for those who make a base­less asy­lum claim.”

Tight­en­ing stan­dards in the U.S. asy­lum sys­tem was among im­mi­gra­tion prin­ci­ples and poli­cies the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently said were needed to pro­tect pub­lic safety and jobs for U.S.-born work­ers. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s list, sent to Con­gress, in­cluded fund­ing a wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico border, curb­ing fed­eral grants to “sanc­tu­ary cities” and crack­ing down on the in­flux of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­nors.

Civil lib­er­ties ad­vo­cates said Ses­sions’s com­ments were in­ac­cu­rate and un­fair to the thou­sands of peo­ple flee­ing dan­ger­ous, life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions in El Salvador, Gu­atemala, Hon­duras and Venezuela.

“At­tor­ney Gen­eral [Ses­sions’s] re­marks to­day were a mere con­tin­u­a­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to falsely paint asy­lum seek­ers and refugees as threats and frauds,” said Eleanor Acer, the se­nior di­rec­tor of refugee pro­tec­tion at Hu­man Rights First. “Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als are not crim­i­nals and frauds; they are moth­ers, teenagers, and chil­dren des­per­ate to es­cape vi­o­lence and per­se­cu­tion.”

Asy­lum is given to a per­son on spe­cific grounds be­cause the per­son fears or has ex­pe­ri­enced per­se­cu­tion on the ba­sis of race, re­li­gion, na­tion­al­ity, po­lit­i­cal opin­ion or mem­ber­ship in a par­tic­u­lar so­cial group. There are two ways to be granted asy­lum: One is “af­fir­ma­tive” asy­lum through the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity. An ap­pli­cant has to file a claim within a year of ar­riv­ing in the United States.

The sec­ond is a “de­fen­sive” ap­pli­ca­tion for asy­lum be­cause the per­son has filed late, was re­jected by the DHS or was ap­pre­hended with­out proper le­gal doc­u­ments. The de­fen­sive cases are han­dled by Jus­tice Depart­ment im­mi­gra­tion courts.

Ses­sions said that many of the asy­lum cases “lacked merit” and are “sim­ply a ruse to en­ter the coun­try il­le­gally.”

“As this sys­tem be­comes over­loaded with fake claims, it can­not deal ef­fec­tively with just claims,” Ses­sions said. “The surge in tri­als, hear­ings, ap­peals, bond pro­ceed­ings has been over­whelm­ing.” He said that “cred­i­ble-fear claims” at the border in­creased from about 3,000 cases in 2009 to more than 69,000 cases in 2016. The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s im­mi­gra­tion re­view of­fice has more than 600,000 cases pend­ing, triple the num­ber pend­ing in 2009, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment.

“We also have dirty im­mi­gra­tion lawyers who are en­cour­ag­ing their oth­er­wise un­law­fully present clients to make false claims of asy­lum, pro­vid­ing them with the magic words needed to trig­ger the cred­i­ble­fear process,” Ses­sions said.

Ses­sions’s re­marks are the lat­est in a string of anti-im­mi­gra­tion stances he has taken since be­com­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral. Ses­sions was the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who an­nounced Sept. 5 the end of the pro­tec­tion pro­vided by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for some 800,000 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who were brought to the United States as chil­dren — they are of­ten called “dream­ers” — to live and work in the United States with­out fear of de­por­ta­tion.

Ses­sions has also threat­ened to with­hold fed­eral polic­ing grants to “sanc­tu­ary cities” that do not co­op­er­ate with the fed­eral govern­ment in de­tain­ing for de­por­ta­tion peo­ple who are in the coun­try il­le­gally. In speeches across the coun­try, Ses­sions has blasted spe­cific cities, such as Chicago, and tied their crime rates to their poli­cies on un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

Sep­a­rately, the Jus­tice Depart­ment on Thurs­day warned five ju­ris­dic­tions con­sid­ered to have “sanc­tu­ary” poli­cies — Chicago, New Or­leans, New York, Philadel­phia and Cook County, Ill., whose county seat is Chicago — that of­fi­cials had pre­lim­i­nar­ily found them to be in vi­o­la­tion of a fed­eral law gov­ern­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion with im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties and that they could be at risk of los­ing grant fund­ing. More than $8.3 mil­lion is at stake, a Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman said.

“Ju­ris­dic­tions that adopt so­called ‘sanc­tu­ary poli­cies’ also adopt the view that the pro­tec­tion of crim­i­nal aliens is more im­por­tant than the pro­tec­tion of law-abid­ing ci­ti­zens and of the rule of law,” Ses­sions said in a state­ment.

Last month, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­rested hun­dreds of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in cities, in­clud­ing Wash­ing­ton, New York, Bal­ti­more and Los An­ge­les, that are some of the harsh­est op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. Un­der Ses­sions, the Jus­tice Depart­ment has de­fended var­i­ous it­er­a­tions of Trump’s en­try ban, which in its cur­rent ver­sion would sus­pend the is­suance of visas to some ci­ti­zens of eight, mostly ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim, coun­tries.

In his speech Thurs­day, the at­tor­ney gen­eral, who left the U.S. Sen­ate to lead the Jus­tice Depart­ment, called on his for­mer col­leagues in Con­gress to re­vamp the asy­lum sys­tem by im­pos­ing penal­ties for fraud­u­lent ap­pli­ca­tions, in­creas­ing the use of ex­pe­dited re­movals, rais­ing the stan­dard of proof in “cred­i­ble fear” in­ter­views and ex­pand­ing the abil­ity to send asy­lum seek­ers to safe third coun­tries.

“What we can­not do — what we must not do — is con­tinue to let our gen­eros­ity be abused,” Ses­sions said.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.