Rise In Asylum Seekers At Border Prompts Congressional Inquiry
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Aired 8/23/13 on KPBS News.
On the heels of reports last week about a rush of Mexican asylum seekers at San Diego border crossings, lawmakers in Washington are looking for answers.
Federal lawmakers want to know what’s driving the rise in asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Thursday, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security asking for a debriefing on the matter. He cited recent reports about a rush of Mexican immigrants at San Diego Ports of Entry claiming they feared returning to their home country.
The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that during the first half of this month some 450 people showed up at San Diego’s border crossings claiming they feared returning to their home country.
Claiming a so-called “credible fear” is the first step in seeking asylum at the border.
Credible fear claims at the southwest border are on track to more than double this year compared to last, with many of those seeking asylum from Central American countries like El Salvador and Honduras.
In his letter to DHS, Congressman Goodlatte said he was concerned that immigrants unauthorized to enter the U.S. were using credible fear claims as a way to skirt the system. Some have speculated that unscrupulous smugglers are coaching migrants to get into the country this way, in the hopes of gaining legal status if an immigration reform bill is passed.
A DHS spokesman said the recent reports about a rush of asylum seekers at San Diego’s borders were overstated.
But the increase in credible fear claims is a problem, said Jason Dzubow, an immigration lawyer who writes a blog called The Asylumist.
“Either it’s a problem because country conditions are getting worse in these various countries or because people are coming to the United States trying to take advantage of a possible immigration reform,” Dzubow said.
Plus, asylum-seekers are seeing their cases delayed as immigration authorities shift resources to handle the increase in credible fear claims, he said.
Congressman Goodlatte said in his letter to DHS that the House would address concerns with the asylum system through its “step-by-step” approach to immigration reform.
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have vowed to propose various bills designed to reform the nation’s immigration system rather than take up the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, which was passed in June.