DHS Announces Major Change to U.S. Asylum Policy
By Heather Ham-Warren | January 4, 2019
Before the New Year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new asylum policy aimed at confronting the growing illegal immigration crisis in the United States. Effective immediately, the United States will begin the process of invoking Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico—illegally or without proper documentation—may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings.
U.S. asylum laws were thrust into the spotlight in 2018 after thousands of Central American, economic migrants marched together through Mexico to the U.S. southern border intent on claiming asylum upon arrival. However, this abuse is not new. Since 2013, there has been a 2000 percent increase in aliens claiming credible fear upon arrival. As a result, the United States has an overwhelming asylum backlog of more than 786,000 pending cases. According to DHS, the large majority of these claims are fraudulent and nine out of ten asylum claims are actually denied by a federal immigration judge. Unfortunately, by the time a judge has ordered them removed from the United States, many of these aliens have disappeared into the country.
To address this widespread abuse, the White House asked Congress to fix various loopholes specifically requesting that Congress 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. However, with Democrats having taken control of the House, future legislative changes appear unlikely.
In her official announcement, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said:
“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates. Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico. ‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return.’ In doing so, we will reduce illegal migration by removing one of the key incentives that encourages people from taking the dangerous journey to the United States in the first place. This will also allow us to focus more attention on those who are actually fleeing persecution.”
Nielsen also said that the Mexican government has pledged to provide aliens with humanitarian visas to stay and work in Mexico as they await a decision from the United States; and that all actions are in line with international law.