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Sessions calls for changes to ‘broken’ U.S. asylum system

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Originally published by Politico

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday declared the U.S. asylum system “broken” due to what he said was fraud committed by immigrants who cross the border illegally and avoid deportation by claiming persecution at home.

“This system is currently subject to rampant abuse and fraud. And as this system becomes overloaded with fake claims, it cannot deal effectively with just claims,” Sessions said during a visit to a Justice Department division in northern Virginia that oversees the immigration courts.

Sessions said “smart lawyers” manipulate the system by counseling immigrants to shape their stories in order to win initial determinations that they have a “credible fear” of being persecuted at home.

“The system is being gamed. There’s no doubt about it. The credible fear process was intended to be a lifeline for persons facing serious persecution. But it has become an easy ticket to illegal entry into the United States,” the attorney general said in remarks to a few dozen employees an Executive Office of Immigration Review training center. “Saying a few simple words is now transforming a straightforward arrest and an immediate return into a probable release and hearing—if the alien bothers to show up for the hearing.”

Sessions said there had been a surge in recent asylum applications, from about 5,000 credible fear reviews in 2009 to 94,000 in fiscal year 2016. He did not directly mention that the rise of narcotrafficking gangs — groups he regularly rails against in other speeches and public appearances — have led to a surge in illegal immigration from citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Many of those people have claimed they were targeted by violent gang networks.

Sessions called on Congress to adopt proposed immigration law changes released by the White House this week, which include a major overhaul of the asylum system. The proposals were part of a broader set of policies President Donald Trump wants as part of a deal with Congress to provide relief to so-called Dreamers — immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children and now are facing the loss of work permits as a result of Trump’s decision to shut down a program started by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

“President Trump understands this is a crisis. So do the American people,” Sessions said. “We have a crisis at our borders, and we intend to fix it.”

Sessions suggested Thursday that fear of broad-based violence in a country shouldn’t be sufficient to allow someone to stay in the U.S.

“They were never intended to provide asylum to all those who fear generalized violence, crime, personal vendettas, or a lack of job prospects. Yet, vague, insubstantial, and subjective claims have swamped our system,” he said.

Read more: www.politico.com/story/2017/10/12/jeff-sessions-asylum-system-broken-243710

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