There is a crisis brewing at the southern border – one that even an impenetrable border wall has no chance of stopping. At this very moment, there are nearly 1,500 Central American migrants caravanning through Mexico on their way to U.S. ports of entry where they plan to claim asylum.
The group leading the caravan, known as Pueblo Sin Fronteras, is flaunting their plans, disrespecting President Trump, and claiming entitlement to American asylum benefits before they even arrive. But the sobering reality for immigration officials is that there is almost nothing they can do about the situation. Over time, economic migrants have learned magic words that trigger a series of actions meant to protect the most vulnerable of our neighbors. They claim asylum, then they are entitled to a credible fear hearing to determine if the alien has a credible fear or persecution in his/her home country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
Late last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained the process of evaluating credible fear assertions, highlighting how absurd the situation has become.
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tasked … with evaluating whether an apprehended alien’s claim of fear is credible. If DHS finds that it may be, the applicant is placed in removal proceedings and allowed to present an asylum claim to an immigration judge.
If DHS finds that the alien does not have a credible fear, the alien can still get an immigration judge to review that determination. In effect, those who would otherwise be subject to expedited removal get two chances to establish that their fear is credible.
The previous Administration began to allow most aliens who passed an initial credible fear review to be released from custody into the United States pending a full hearing. These changes—and case law that has expanded the concept of asylum well beyond Congressional intent—created even more incentives for illegal aliens to come here and claim a fear of return…
Claims of fear to return have skyrocketed, and the percentage of claims that are genuinely meritorious are down.”
Statistics show that in 2009, DHS conducted 5,000 credible fear reviews. By 2016, that number had increased to 94,000. This number is even more alarming considering that senior White House officials recently revealed on a call that over 80% of all credible fear assertions are granted.
Following President Trump’s sharp critique of Mexico, complete with thinly-veiled NAFTA threats, Mexico’s National Institute of Migration announced they would disband the caravan. However, Pueblo Sin Fronteras mocked these reports, claiming that organizers persuaded the Mexican government to allow caravan members to transit Mexico on their way to the U.S. border – and, in some cases, seek asylum in Mexico. One member said, “don’t be fooled, the [Mexican] government isn’t disbanding [the caravan]it’s conceding its participants’ right to apply for asylum without traveling in the shadows.” In actuality, it’s not apparent that the Mexican government has taken any formal stance on the Caravan, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement indicating that American immigration laws are not Mexico’s responsibility. One thing is abundantly clear, Mexico is woefully failing to meet its obligations under international law and ignoring its diplomatic responsibilities vis-à-vis the United States.
There is a simple solution to this problem. Congress must tighten the definition of credible fear and the process by which it is evaluated and clearly grant immigration authorities the discretion to refuse dubious claims at the border. This caravan is only another example of systemic abuse, and the integrity of our immigration system in jeopardy.