Sessions to tighten asylum rules
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday he will release a new interpretation of asylum law to help alleviate pressure on immigration courts.
Speaking to immigration judges in Washington, who are administrative employees of the Justice Department, Sessions made the case that the asylum system is being abused by immigrants in the country illegally.
“The asylum system is being abused to the detriment of the rule of law, sound public policy and public safety — and to the detriment of people with just claims,” he said.
Sessions argued that such immigrants abuse the system by saying they have a credible fear of returning to their home countries, giving border agents no choice but to put them in asylum proceedings.
He said that so-called credible fear reviews skyrocketed from 5,000 in 2009 to 94,000 in 2016.
Under the current interpretation of the law, foreign nationals can apply for asylum if they make it to the U.S. and stake a claim of persecution or fear on account of race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
But, Sessions said Monday, “Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems — even all serious problems — that people face every day all over the world.”
“Today, exercising the responsibility given to me under the [Immigration and Nationality Act], I will be issuing a decision that restores sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law,” he said.
Sessions did not lay out the specific changes during his speech to the immigration judges, but he told them the decision would help their daily duties.
“This decision will provide more clarity for you. It will help you to rule consistently and fairly,” he said.
After a first-year dip in the Trump administration, illegal border crossings have mostly returned to their seasonal averages.
Over each of the past three months, slightly more than 50,000 people have been caught attempting to cross or turned back at ports of entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. That’s comparable to the figures for the same period in 2016, the last year of former President Obama’s administration.
Sessions, who imposed a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings in May, said the changes would help deter future undocumented immigrants from attempting the journey to the United States.
“The world will know what our rules are, and great numbers will no longer undertake this dangerous journey. The number of illegal aliens and the number of baseless claims will fall,” he said.
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