Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech Thursday that frivolous asylum claims are clogging up the immigration court system and deemed it a “crisis” that needs fixing.
“Here are the shocking statistics: in 2009, [Department of Homeland Security] conducted more than 5,000 credible fear reviews. By 2016, that number had increased to 94,000,” Sessions said at a speech at the Executive Office for Immigration Review. “The increase has been especially pronounced and abused at the border. From 2009 to 2016, the credible fear claims at the border went from approximately 3,000 cases to more than 69,000. All told the Executive Office for Immigration Review has over 600,000 cases pending—tripled from 2009.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan has told The Daily Caller that ICE could deport more illegal immigrants if the backlog in immigration courts is addressed. A list of immigration priorities sent to Congressional leaders Sunday by the White House included hiring more immigration judges and reforming the asylum system.
“Congress must pass the legislative priorities President Trump announced this week, which included significant asylum reform, swift border returns, and enhanced interior enforcement,” Sessions stated.
“Our asylum laws are meant to protect those who because of characteristics like their race, religion, nationality, or political opinions cannot find protection in their home countries. They were never intended to provide asylum to all those who fear generalized violence, crime, personal vendettas, or a lack of job prospects,” the attorney general continued, referencing claims using gang violence to defend the flow of Central American migration.
“Unfortunately, this system is currently subject to rampant abuse and fraud. And 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.
As proof of a system overloaded with false claims, Sessions said that half of those that pass DHS credible fear screening never file an asylum application once they are in the U.S.
“This suggests they knew their asylum claims lacked merit and that their claim of fear was simply a ruse to enter the country illegally,” the attorney general continued.
“The system is being gamed. The credible fear process was intended to be a lifeline for persons facing serious persecution. But it has become an easy ticket to illegal entry into the United States,” Sessions continued. “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 credible fear process.”
He added: “We can impose and enforce penalties for baseless or fraudulent asylum applications and expand the use of expedited removal. We can elevate the threshold standard of proof in credible fear interviews. We can expand the ability to return asylum seekers to safe third countries. We can close loopholes and clarify our asylum laws to ensure that they help those they were intended to help. We can turnaround this crisis under President Trump’s leadership.”