The Truth about So-Called Asylum Seekers


January 10, 2023

By Tom Homan

I have been arguing for years about the asylum system, how it is full of fraud and that the threshold for passing the initial interview at the border is way too low. This is one of the structural problems in our immigration system that has led to the chaos we face today. It needs to be reformed as soon as possible.

Aliens entering the United States illegally are only required to pass a short initial interview. The vast majority pass this test, mostly because human trafficking groups and non-governmental organizations coach them on the right words to say during the interview. Those who pass the initial test are then released into the country.

However, if they actually file a case and show up to immigration court, the threshold of proving your case is much higher, and most fail. I have argued for years that the threshold of the initial interview needs to be increased to the judicial threshold. That would help prevent so much asylum fraud from occurring, which in turn means far less fraudsters will be released into the country, and likely never held accountable for violating our immigration laws.

There are indeed some legitimate asylum seekers and it’s unfortunate that so many fraudsters clog up the system to the detriment of those that are truly deserving of our protection. I have said for years that nearly 90 percent, of Central Americans who claim asylum at our border never receive a grant of asylum from U.S. courts because they either do not show up or file a case after entering, or they simply don’t qualify under the rules of asylum.

According to the United Nations, asylum is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed (deported) to a country where he or she fears persecution or harm. Under U.S. law, people who flee their countries because they fear persecution can apply for asylum. If they are granted asylum, this gives them protection and the right to stay in the United States. 

Persecution can be harm or threats of harm to you or your family or to people similar to you. A person can also obtain asylum if he or she has suffered persecution in his or her country in the past. You only can win asylum if someone has harmed you or may harm you because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion (or a political opinion someone thinks you have), or the fact that you are part of a “particular social group.”

Study after study based on interviews of people crossing the border illegally who plan on seeking asylum state that they are coming to this country for a better life, to get a job and to escape poverty. The vast majority are coming to the U.S. for only economic reasons. I get that. However, those needs simply do not qualify for asylum as stated above, and the vast majority will lose in court if they show up.

The vast majority are coming to the U.S. for only economic reasons. I get that. However, those needs simply do not qualify for asylum, and the vast majority will lose in court if they show up.

Recently, the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) came out with a study on this, and I am grateful they did because they found what I have been saying for years. The TRAC report looked at the Immigration Court’s processing of asylum cases among those who passed their first interview and were released into the U.S. The sample study showed a 93 percent denial rate of asylum cases in Immigration Court’s “Dedicated Docket” for speedy asylum review. Only 7 percent were awarded asylum from the court. This is largely due to the fact that bogus asylum claims are often based on the occurrence of crime in Central America, rather than persecution as contemplated under the asylum statute.

What is even more concerning is what happens to that 93 percent that fail and will be ordered deported. According to the Homeland Security Lifecycle Report, families that are ordered deported and are not in custody leave the U.S. as directed only 6 percent of the time. Most of them will simply hide out and wait for the next giveaway program such as DACA or amnesty. It’s the same old game we have seen for the last several decades.  

President Trump had it right with the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or what is commonly referred to as the Remain in Mexico Program. People could still claim asylum, even the fraudsters. However, they had to wait in Mexico for the hearing instead of being released into the U.S. Can you guess what happened?  Many didn’t bother coming at all and many others left Mexico and returned home.

That program yielded a better result for all parties. Better for the integrity of our immigration laws, for the migrants spared the horror of sexual abuse and violence from cartels, and for the United States that can no longer absorb nearly endless flows of new arrivals. True asylum reform is desperately needed for the benefit of all those harmed by the program in its current form.

Tom Homan is a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute and the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Also published at The Washington Times, January 10, 2023.

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