Recently, the departments of Homeland Security and Justice announced a new regulation that would overhaul the United States’ widely abused asylum process. Government officials stated their proposed rule will “more effectively separate baseless claims from meritorious ones. This would better ensure groundless claims do not delay or divert from deserving claims.” Among the 15 revisions the administration seeks is rejecting asylum petitions from applicants who previously but illegally entered the U.S., which would be a major step in the right direction.
The goals of DHS and DOJ are worthy. For decades, the asylum process has been subject to widespread fraud. Immigration advocates have instructed border-crossing asylum seekers to claim “credible fear,” the two words that almost always assure entry.
In 2018, NPR published an expose that targeted asylum mills. During a 2012 probe by federal immigration officials, 30 immigration lawyers, paralegals and interpreters were questioned about helping 3,500 foreign nationals located in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Flushing, Queens to fraudulently obtain asylum. Tellingly, the feds named their case “Operation Fiction Writer.”
Immigration authorities accused lawyers and their staffs of dumping boilerplate language into their clients’ persecution lies, coaching clients to memorize and recite fictitious accounts to asylum officers, and fabricating documents to buttress their phony asylum claims. Obama administration officials, including then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, declined to criminally prosecute any wrong-doers.
In 2019, Bharara was replaced by Geoffrey S. Berman, who recently stepped down under pressure. Berman sentenced a legitimate but dishonest Queens immigration attorney to five years behind bars for submitting more than 100 false asylum claims that included drafting, applicants’ alleged persecution narratives, forging her clients’ signatures, and falsely notarizing affidavits.
Although most immigration lawyers practice their profession legally, asylum cases represent lucrative business. Legitimate immigration lawyers’ successes and the income they generate, however, have inspired con artists to pose as immigration experts in order to cash in on prospective, but unsuspecting, would-be asylees.
Earlier this year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) charged a Tampa fraudster with a 25-count indictment, including eight counts of mail fraud, eight counts of making false statements in immigration documents, and nine counts of aggravated identity theft. The swindler, who targeted Hispanic illegal immigrants who sought driver’s licenses and work authorization, falsely portrayed himself as an immigration attorney, pastor, accountant, former immigration official and former federal law enforcement officer, all bogus representations.
An all-encompassing asylum process should not be fraud-vulnerable. Historically, asylum claims are difficult to prove. Since asylum claims are evaluated either at a legal port of entry or processed after an individual has illegally entered the U.S., it’s important to weed out the valid from the frivolous.
Asylum fraud isn’t, as advocates disingenuously say, a “victimless crime.” The Government Accountability Office noted that granting asylum based on false statements jeopardizes the immigration system’s integrity by enabling the individual to remain, and then apply for affirmative federal benefits, including work authorization documents, and eventually treasured U.S. citizenship. Moreover, fraudulent asylum applications delay processing valid applications, and impede granting benefits to aliens who legitimately need protection.
The U.S. cannot be the ultimate destination wherein worldwide claimants’ grievances are resolved. Cases must be provable, not disinformation-based. Even prominent globalist Bill Gates said that the true asylum solution must come from the home nations of asylees. In 2018, Gates said: “Each country to some degree is on its own to solve their challenges.”
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at, [email protected]