Statue of Liberty signpost in New York CityAlthough it is characterized in the media as a new phenomenon of aliens showing up at the border and requesting asylum, it is not new. It is a similar phenomenon as occurred two decades ago. But then it was aliens showing up at international airports and requesting asylum. The response of the immigration authorities then was to give the arriving aliens a work permit and a date to appear in the future for a court hearing on their asylum claim.

As word on the grapevine got passed around that this was an easy route to illegal entry into the United States, the practice snowballed, so the dates to appear for that hearing got pushed farther into the future.

The problem grew so extensive with thousands of arriving asylum claimants that the Clinton administration finally decided to act. That action was to begin detention of the asylum applicants, expedited hearings of the asylum claims and denial of work permits to all except those who were found preliminarily to have a prima facie case for asylum. The result was swift; the number of asylum claimants at airports dropped off dramatically.

The only difference with the surge in asylum applicants today with the earlier crisis is that those arriving at airports two decades ago had been issued visas. The new surge is made up of people who arrive without visas and includes many minors – often unaccompanied – which implies a more sensitive issue of detention facilities. The Obama administration has reacted by saying that the asylum claims would be expedited, and those having invalid claims would be deported. But, despite the claims of activists supporting the illegal aliens, there is no evidence of any follow-through of detention and deportation that would deter the wave of fraudulent asylum claimants. So, it has continued.