President Trump and various administration officials have accurately diagnosed the crisis at the border and its impact on the security of our nation by pointing out the widespread exploitation of our asylum laws. Every day, people cross our borders and present claims that are clearly coached, knowing that in most cases they will be released pending a hearing that could be years in the future. Because of this, there are now nearly one million cases backlogged in the immigration court and massive backlogs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum offices.
Despite the clear need for Congressional action in this area, the administration and Congressional leadership are showing little appetite to address our asylum laws as they look to obtain some $5 billion in border wall funding before Democrats take control of the House in January. While FAIR enthusiastically supports President Trump’s border wall and is working to ensure that Congress provides the necessary funding in the current lame duck session, a wall alone simply isn’t enough. Until loopholes that have been exploited for years are closed and asylum laws are changed to protect the credibility of the process, we’ll continue to see increased pressure on our southern border.
The required changes that must be pursued along with border wall funding include:
Improve the Credible Fear Standard to Protect Legitimate Claims and Prevent Fraud: Congress must fix the minimal standard under current law that allows aliens – often economic migrants – to show a ‘credible fear of persecution’ and then obtain release into the interior of the country while their claim goes through backlogged immigration courts. Aliens should be required to clearly demonstrate a credible fear of persecution to stop fraud and help ensure that only legitimate claims are approved. To punish those who knowingly abuse our generosity, Congress should impose and enforce penalties for the filing of frivolous, baseless, or fraudulent asylum claims, and expand the use of expedited removal as appropriate.
Allow for extended family detention and increase detention space: Congress can legislatively overrule the “Flores Settlement Agreement,” a court settlement and subsequent judicial rulings that limit the detention of families with children to just 20 days – a time period entirely too brief to complete a full and fair asylum adjudication. This loophole is the ‘jet engine’ driving the catch and release program. Further, Congress must fund enough detention space – including family detention centers – so no one is released while they await a court date.
Amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA): This well-intended humanitarian law, which was designed to protect minors from sex traffickers, is now being exploited. Minors from across the globe are now sent to our borders by families hoping to establish an immigration anchor in the United States. The overly broad provisions of the TVPRA virtually guarantee that unaccompanied minors will be admitted to the United States, and allowed to stay, in order to complete lengthy judicial proceedings that inadvertently encourage both fraud and further exploitation of children by parties savvy enough to exploit the system.
RJ Hauman writes for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.