Hearings

2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Statement of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte

Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee “Asylum Fraud: Abusing America’s Compassion?”

Chairman Goodlatte: The United States of America is extremely hospitable to immigrants, asylees, refugees, and those needing temporary protected status.  Our nation’s record of generosity and compassion to people in need of protection from war, anarchy, natural disaster, and persecution is exemplary and easily the best in the world. 

We have maintained a robust refugee resettlement system, taking in more United Nations designated refugees than all other countries combined. We grant asylum to tens of thousands of asylum seekers each year. We expect to continue this track record in protecting those who arrive here in order to escape persecution. 

Unfortunately, however, because of our well justified reputation for compassion, many people are tempted to file fraudulent claims just so they can get a free pass into the United States. 

The system becomes subject to abuse and fraud when the generous policies we have established are used for ideological goals by the Administration.  It also becomes subject to abuse when people seek to take advantage of our generosity and game the system by identifying and exploiting loopholes. 

The House Judiciary Committee recently obtained an internal document demonstrating that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ National Security and Records Verification Directorate’s Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Division completed a report in 2009 on asylum fraud in cases considered by asylum officers.  They studied a sample of asylum applications that were affirmatively filed between May and October 2005.  Pursuant to the report, a case was classified as fraudulent if reliable evidence pertaining to the applicant’s asylum eligibility proved a material misrepresentation and the evidence was more than just contradictory testimony given by the applicant.  If indicators of fraud existed and pertained to the applicant’s asylum eligibility, but fraud could not be confirmed by evidence external to the applicant’s testimony, the case was classified as exhibiting “indicators of possible fraud.”  A total of 12% of cases (29 out of 239) were found to have proven fraud and an additional 58% (138 cases) had indicators of possible fraud -- for a total 70% rate of proven or possible fraud.

The Obama Administration refused to make these findings public and has, to my knowledge, done nothing to address the concerns raised by the report.  Instead, they felt their time was better spent contesting the report’s methodology and hiring private contractors to rebut the findings of fraud.  We have asked USCIS for any reports ever generated by the private contractors, but no such report has been provided to date. 

The only check suggested in the 2009 FDNS report that is mandatory, and has been since 2006, is the US-Visit check.  All the other checks in the report are currently discretionary.  The report also states “As a result of information gleaned from this study, FDNS plans to issue internal agency recommendations to improve USCIS processes and fraud detection.”  According to DHS, recommendations were made since 2009 but as of yesterday they have not told us either what those recommendations were or whether they had ever been implemented.  Finally, USCIS made clear that under this administration, no other fraud reporting analysis has been generated.

To make matters worse, under Obama’s tenure approval rates by asylum officers have increased from 28% in 2007 to 46% in 2013.  If an asylum officer does not approve the application, it is referred to an immigration judge.  Approval rates by immigration judges of affirmative applications have increased from 51% in 2007 to 72% in 2012.  Combining these two bites at the apple, the vast majority of aliens who affirmatively seek asylum are now successful in their claims.  This does not even take into account the appellate process.

Additionally, when DHS grants an asylum application, the alien becomes immediately eligible for major federal benefits programs that are not even available to most legal permanent residents, or not available to them for years.  These programs can provide many thousands of dollars a year in benefits to eligible individuals. 

In 2012, 29,484 aliens were granted asylum.  I am sending a letter to the Government Accountability Office to determine what the cost of these benefits are to the American taxpayer.  If 70% of these grants were made based on fraudulent applications, American taxpayers are being defrauded out of hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars each year.

I am certainly not calling for reduced asylum protections.  On the contrary, asylum should remain an important protection extended to aliens fleeing persecution.  We merely seek to improve the integrity of the existing asylum program by reducing the opportunities for fraud and abuse while ensuring adherence to our nation’s immigration laws.   

An overwhelming amount of fraud exists in the process and little is done to address it. Individuals are showing up in droves at the border to make out asylum claims. Adjudicators have the general mindset that they must “get to yes” in order to have successful careers. It is apparent that the rule of law is being ignored and there is an endemic problem within the system that the Administration is ignoring.  Failing to address these problems undermines the goodwill and trust necessary to develop a common sense step by step approach to improving our immigration laws.  I look forward to addressing this disturbing problem today. 

 

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