A surge in asylum seekers is swamping U.S. immigration courts and swelling the country’s illegal-alien population.
Since 2008, asylum claims soared 1,700 percent. “We have seen the backlog explode to over 300,000 cases for asylum,” reports Jonathan Hoffman, assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s a huge thing — it is almost half of our legal immigration flow per year,” according to Rosemary Jenks, policy director at NumbersUSA.
Though 62 percent of asylum claims are eventually rejected by the courts – and that rate is rising – the growing backlog of cases effectively jams the system and further delays processing of bona fide refugees.
“Asylum is enshrined as a right in both U.S. and international law,” Lyman Stone wrote recently in The Federalist. “However, asylum has become increasingly controversial in the United States and Europe as a growing share of foreign citizens attempt to claim asylum, raising questions over whether this once-modestly-sized migration program faces abuse and misuse.”
(For some global perspective, Japan received 19,628 requests for asylum last year, a record for that country. Twenty were granted.)
While waiting for their cases to be heard – a process that can take two years or longer – asylum seekers who make it to America are temporarily held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, then released into the general population.
They don’t go empty-handed.
In fiscal 2017, the Department of Homeland Security approved 403,000 work permits for migrants based on pending asylum claims. The Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) qualify them for Social Security cards and driver’s licenses.
Asylum seekers, legitimate or not, are typically unskilled individuals dependent on government aid. Their children – who make up a growing percentage of asylum seekers — are in public schools. Families get taxpayer-funded medical care, plus state assistance, as well as federal tax-related subsidies, including the child credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
When asylees’ claims are ultimately rejected, months or years after they crossed our borders, legal documents are supposed to be revoked and the individuals removed from the country.
Who are we kidding? By then, they have become embedded among America’s 12 million illegal aliens, and overwhelmed federal agencies have nowhere near the resources necessary to effect removal.
“Our immigration system is clearly being gamed,” says the DHS’s Hoffman.
Bob Dane is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director.