Congress: Asylum System Letting in Terrorists

by Jason Dzubow on June 1, 2015

According to a letter from four members of Congress to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson,  a “recent disclosure [by USCIS] regarding the number of aliens found to have a ‘credible fear’ in cases where the terrorism bar to asylum eligibility may have applied raised the concern that hundreds of known and suspected aliens with terrorist connections may be attempting to take advantage of our country’s asylum system.”

Eli Wiesel provided slave labor to the Nazis, so he may be subject to the terrorism bar.

Eli Wiesel provided slave labor to the Nazis, so he may be subject to the terrorism bar.

The “recent disclosure” from USCIS to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform revealed that “the terrorism bar to asylum eligibility may be applicable to 299 aliens who were found to have a ‘credible fear’ of persecution in the first four months of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, and to 339 aliens who were found to have a ‘credible fear’ in FY 2014.” The four Congressman–Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Ron DeSantis (R-FL)–requested more information about the 638 aliens in question, including each aliens’ confidential A-file and whether and by what authority each alien was released from detention.

First, what’s this all about?

When an alien arrives at the border (or at an airport), she can request asylum. Rather than admit her into the U.S., the alien is usually detained and scheduled for a “credible fear” interview–a preliminary evaluation of eligibility for asylum. The large majority of aliens “pass” the credible fear interview. Their cases are then transferred to an Immigration Judge and–in most, but not all, cases–they are released from detention. Aliens who do not pass the credible fear interview are deported.

In 638 credible fear interviews, conducted since October 2013, the alien said something or the U.S. government had some information that may have implicated a Terrorism-Related Inadmissibility Ground (“TRIG”). This could have been something relatively benign (the alien paid extortion money to a gang) or something of great concern (the alien is Osama bin Laden’s best friend). We don’t know–the TRIGs are very broad (as I’ve discussed here).

One piece of information that we do have is the list of countries that send us the most credible fear applicants: El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Ecuador. These are not normally countries we associate with terrorism. However, these nations have major problems with gang and cartel violence, so we might suspect that many of the TRIG issues raised in credible fear interviews relate to paying extortion to criminal groups. Again, though, we really don’t know.

So what’s the solution? In their letter, the four Congressman request more information from DHS about the TRIG issues raised during credible fear interviews. This seems to me a perfectly reasonable request. We need to know more so we can better understand what is happening, who is coming here, and how we can make more appropriate policy decisions.

I do have a few concerns about the letter, however. At least some of the Congressmen making the request have demonstrated a clear bias against asylum seekers. Since everything these days is subject to spin, I worry that the Congressmen will use the data–no matter how benign–to stir up more anti-immigrant feelings and place further restrictions on asylum seekers. DHS should not let that happen. DHS can do its own evaluation of the data and release a report to the public (it would be difficult to make the raw data publicly available due to confidentiality issues).

Another concern I have is that the Congressmen are requesting the A-files for individual asylum seekers. Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 208.6, these files are confidential, though they can be shared within the government for legitimate purposes. While I believe that the Congressmen have no intention of breaching confidentiality, we do not know what safeguards they have put into place to protect the individual asylum seekers. Who will be reviewing the 638 files (that will be a big job)? Interns? Regular staff members? What training do they have? Do they have a security clearance? Where will the files be kept? How will the results of the study be released so as to ensure confidentiality for individuals? What will happen to the files at the end of the process? These questions need to be answered before DHS releases the A files to Congress.

Finally, the letter demands that the files be turned over before COB on June 3, 2015–two weeks after the letter was written. How the Congressmen expect DHS to gather this information and turn it over on time–while ensuring confidentiality–is beyond me. The seemingly impossible time frame attached to the letter detracts from its credibility. If the Congressmen are serious about gathering and analyzing this data (which is a very worthy goal), they should approach the problem in a more reasonable way. For example, they could involve the Congressional Research Service, which has the expertise to review and analyze raw data from USCIS.

I have written before that we need more data about who is seeking asylum in the United States, how they get here, why they are requesting asylum, and the decision-making process itself. Such information would make our country safer and our asylum system better. Congress has an important role to play in this process and so does DHS. Hopefully, for once, the two can play nice together and get the job done. 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Sari August 30, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Hi Jason,

I got my asylum approved in 2013 and applied for Green Card, along with my husband, in 2015. My case was put on hold citing TRIAG, while my husband’s case was approved. Do you have any advice in case like mine?p.s My husband is the beneficiary and both of us are in the USA.

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Jason Dzubow August 31, 2015 at 6:35 am

I am planning to write a post in the future about the TRIG hold – I am not sure there is a lot to be done. Maybe try contacting the Ombudsman’s office. I listed their contact info in a posting dated February 26, 2015. Good luck, Jason

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ali July 23, 2015 at 6:00 am

Mr Jason Dzubow,
Me and my wife are holding pakistani passport with 5 years valid multiple visa and we are also parents of us born 5 years old child.
Me and my wife are resident of United Arab Emirates and we are living and working there . Law in UAE is once you loose your job or resign then you have to find another job with in 30 days or else you will have to leave the country and your residence visa will be cancel.Currently situation is not good for my job and i am afraid that i will have to go back to pakistan where situation is very bad as in our house we received several note asking for money or else we will get kidnape.We filed the report in police station however we still do not feel safe .pakistan is the counrty where there is no safety of presedent then we are just a ordaniry people.appreciate your reply what step shall i take to take assylum and what documents i should carry prior coming to usa.

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Jason Dzubow July 23, 2015 at 6:18 am

We have had many clients who lived in the UAE and then had to leave because they lost their job. This generally is not a problem for asylum seekers in the US. As for documents, it is probably better not to travel with them, as I have heard about clients’ documents being confiscated by immigration officials. Better to scan and email them to yourself and then have someone mail the originals later. I cannot say what documents you need, but for sure, you want the police reports and copies of any threat letters. Also, keep in mind that asylum is not granted to everyone facing harm. You must show that they want to harm you because they do not like your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group. You also need to show that the government cannot protect you, and that there is no where in Pakistan where you can live safely. We have done a number of cases from Pakistan, and they are usually strong cases, but you need to keep all this in mind. Good luck, Jason

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dana tahhan June 13, 2015 at 10:22 pm

my family in dangerous..i want to bring them here as soon as possible ..and i am here alone with one year baby..

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dana tahhan June 13, 2015 at 10:15 pm

my name is dana and iam from syria ..i applied for asylum in Jan 9/2015
and i did my fingerprint after tow weeks…my husband and my six years daughter are Syria waiting for me to make reunited …am heterosexual alone with one year baby ..and i didn’t see my family from nine months ..
my daughter cry every day said i miss mom break my hart because i can not do any thing…please help me …thank you..

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Jason Dzubow June 14, 2015 at 10:49 pm

It is a very difficult situation. I wish they would give priority to people like you (who are separated from family), but they do not. You can explain this to the asylum office and ask them to expedite the case, but it is difficult to convince them to expedite. Maybe your family members could apply for some other type of visa to come to the US, or maybe they could seek humanitarian parole. I wish there was an easier solution. Good luck, Jason

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Kharantin June 13, 2015 at 7:50 am

Hi Jason !!! What is the recommended approval ,do you any articles regarding this issue ??thanks

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Jason Dzubow June 14, 2015 at 10:45 pm

I have not – but in the next month or two, I will publish something that is related to this subject.

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Samir June 13, 2015 at 7:45 am

Hello Mr Jason ,i did heard a lot about you from my friends that you are helping immigrants by giving them very important advises ,thank you very much for doing this !!! I am an Asylum Applicant since 2013 ,i already had an interview ,got my Recommended Approval and also receive my second EAD category A05 by mail (right after second fingerprint ,biometrics ) even-though was not applied for it ,i did sent the status enquire two times , but no any responses so far.My questions is 1.how i can arrange in person walk in to the Spokane,WA Asylum Field Office to learn about my case status. 2. Since i got a Hernia surgery i cant go there by my self ,is there any way if somebody other than me gonna go there for example my brother if yes what kind of papers he gonna take with him ,,,thanks a lot Jason .God Bless !!!

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Jason Dzubow June 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm

I do not know about the Spokane office – You should email the San Francisco office and maybe they can tell you. Also, I know a lawyer could go for you, but I do not think they will give such info to your brother. Maybe he would need a power of attorney, but I do not know. Again, you can email the SF office and ask. Good luck, Jason

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best June 12, 2015 at 12:33 am

hello please, jason is it possible to get medical care here because my file is a chicago and I live for one week and IOWA my health only gets afflaibir. is there a possibility to get care because I began to be afraid on my state of health …………… please help me! I have not yet got my work permit because I had applied for this June 1

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Jason Dzubow June 12, 2015 at 6:20 am

I know of no systematic way to get health care based on an asylum case that is pending. I suggest you contact local non-profits in your area (for example, Catholic Charities) to see whether they can give you some referrals. I suspect there are resources available, but you will have to look for them.

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A.D June 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Hello Mr. Jason Dzubow,
thank you very much for helping people by answering their questions,
anyway i have a question about Newark office, NJ.
I went to Newark office in month ago to Inquire about the late that take place for scheduling interview because i made finger print on December 2014, so they didn’t give us any answer just we have to wait because they scheduling an appointments for who late and probably and hopefully we starting to scheduling an appointments with 2014’s cases with end of 2015 or beginning of 2016.
So, my question, Do you know at any month arrived in the office set up appointments and interviews?
sincerely,

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Jason Dzubow June 3, 2015 at 8:45 am

Newark is interviewing cases filed in December 2012 or January 2013. For some reason, the number of backlogged cases in that asylum office has increased more than in many other offices. I do not know why, but it is apparent when you look at the statistics. Take care, Jason

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Alexandra June 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Hello MR Jason thanks a lot for spending your time doing this blessing thing by helping us (the immigrants ) ,my question is i did apply for asylum in texas ( its the place where i do leave permanently ) and i go to Chicago and work there (applying for Chicago driver license ) and come back home every 6 month and leave again to Chicago .My family do stay in Texas and they check my mail and i had already asylum interview in Houston and they give me a recommended approval ( they did not ask me why i do have Chicago driver license …but i am waiting for the final approval for 8 month ..do you think its because i do go to Chicago for temporary job and staying there 6 month.

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Jason Dzubow June 2, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Maybe you did not see the previous response, but here it is again:
I highly doubt the reason for the delay is related to your job in Chicago or your driver’s license. Many people are delayed, and usually it is due to security background checks. Good luck, Jason

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