Politics

Border Crisis Is Spiking Asylum Claims To 40,000 By Fall

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The number of border-crossing juveniles who file legal claims for asylum is likely to exceed 40,000 by October, and is roughly six times the level seen in 2010.

The spike is caused by the growing wave of unskilled Central American migrants who are crossing into Texas on the belief that President Barack Obama’s policies will allow them to settle in the United States.

The number of juveniles seeking residency rose from 7,162 in 2010, to 11,411 in 2012, and 21,351 in 2013, according to the federal data cited by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

During the first six months of 2014, the data shows that 19,671 juveniles asked for residency. If that six-month upward trend continues, more than 40,000 juveniles will file for green cards by October 2014.

The cross-border wave of unaccompanied Central American youths is growing fast. Federal data shows that 57,000 children and working-age youths have arrived since last October. An additional 30,000 juveniles arrived between October 2011 and the end of September 2013.

Also, tens of thousands of Central Americans are arriving in “family units” of one parent and some children. Many of the adults and children are filing asylum cases that will be decided over the next few years.

Federal data leaked to The Daily Caller shows that immigration officers gave initial approval to file 39,393 asylum claims from October 2012 to September 2013. That’s triple the number of approvals in 2010.

Juveniles who cross the border alone don’t have to get approval to file asylum cases because the administration claims they’re covered by a 2008 anti-trafficking law — dubbed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

That 2008 law was drafted to help youths involved in international prostitution rings, and it allows victimized youths to file asylum cases without approval by border officers.

However, few if any of the unaccompanied Central American migrants are victims of sex trafficking. In fact, many of them are being transported by smugglers who were hired by immigrant parents living in the United States. The smugglers relay the youths to federal border agencies, who then pass them to their parents, even when the parents are illegal immigrants.

Syracuse’s new data also shows the migrants are five time more likely to win their immigration cases, and gain a coveted green card, if they are aided by lawyers.

The data shows that 29,173 juveniles without lawyers sought residency from 2005 to 2014. Only 10 percent were allowed to stay.

But 31,036 juveniles were aided by lawyers, and 47 percent of them won their green cards.

Obama’s July 8 funding request asked Congress to provide at least $18 million for lawyers to help the Central American border-crossers. His funding request also included legal provisions that would let administration officials transfer some of the funds to hire more lawyers for the juveniles.

In June, the Department of Justice announced it would spend $2 million in grant funding to provide free legal services for border-crossing juveniles.

The juveniles’ access to lawyers is a key factor in Capitol Hill bargaining over a reform of the 2008 anti-trafficking law.

The various legislators are looking to close or preserve the legal loophole in the 2008 laws that the administration says lets juveniles file for asylum.

GOP leaders don’t want the migrants to have an automatic right to sue for asylum, and oppose taxpayer-funded lawyers.

An asylum case filed by migrants can take “between a year and a half, or as long as five years,” according to Texas GOP Rep. Kay Granger. “With 57,000 unaccompanied children [already arrived in 2104], that’s just not acceptable… we’ve got to change that,” she said.

But many Democrats oppose any change to the 2008 law, and insist that juveniles’ have a right to some level of due process, including a right to taxpayer-funded lawyers.

“The 2008 law, as you know, sets up a reasonable standard for requesting asylum… that should never be changed,” Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said July 14.

That’s risky for Democrats, partly because multiple polls show that the president’s immigration policies are widely unpopular.

Administration officials, plus various progressive non-profits, are now trying to find low-cost or free lawyers for the foreign youths, many of whom are old enough to work.

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