Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by a vote of 19-11 legislation to reform the asylum system. The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act (H.R. 391), originally introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and now sponsored by Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.), makes a number of improvements to our nation’s laws to prevent fraud and abuse in the asylum system and ensure that it is reserved for those truly fleeing persecution in their home countries. Representative Johnson and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the statements below on today’s Committee approval of the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act.
Representative Johnson: “Securing our borders should always be a top priority, and reversing previous years of lax enforcement to re-establish stability in our immigration system is the only way to ensure the legal path to citizenship is followed again. Decades of an exposed and broken border have not only encouraged more immigrants to enter the United States illegally, but have also led to an increase in human and drug trafficking. Making matters worse, terrorists have been known to utilize weaknesses in immigration laws to gain entry and carry out their attacks. My legislation ensures our asylum programs are used not for the ill-intent of bad actors, but for those truly in need of refuge.”
Chairman Goodlatte: “The recent surge of Central American unaccompanied alien minors and family units seeking to enter the U.S. illegally at our southern border put a strain on manpower and resources. It also exposed loopholes in our nation’s immigration laws that are being exploited by smugglers and others seeking to game the system. The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act makes a number of changes to address these problems while also maintaining our country’s historic generosity toward those fleeing persecution in their home countries. I am pleased that the House Judiciary Committee has approved this bill and others to improve our nation’s immigration system and urge the House to take them up when Congress returns in a few weeks.”
Key Components of the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act:
Strengthens Asylum Process to Protect Legitimate Claims and Prevent Fraud:
- Improves Credible Fear Standard: We must fix the very minimal standard under current law that allows an alien apprehended at the border to show a “credible fear of persecution” and then generally be released into our communities while their asylum claim goes through the very lengthy immigration court process. During Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved 81% and 88% of credible fear claims, respectively – many of which were fraudulent and baseless. The result was an explosion of claims as word got out of the virtual rubberstamping of applications. The bill requires aliens to more clearly demonstrate a credible fear of persecution in order to curtail fraud and help ensure only legitimate claims are approved.
- Terminates Asylum for Those Who Return Home: The bill requires termination of asylum status where an asylee returns to their home country from which they sought asylum, absent a change in country conditions.
Reforms Immigration Parole Law to Prevent Executive Overreach: Under current law, DHS is able to bring into the U.S. otherwise inadmissible aliens and release detained aliens – but only in very narrow circumstances. The Obama Administration abused the parole program – going well beyond the intent of Congress – to admit entire classes of aliens and release large numbers of detained aliens. In order to prevent such abuses from happening again in the future, the bill specifies the precise instances in which parole can be used.
Provides Asylum Seekers Ability to Apply for Benefits from Safe Third Countries: The bill grants DHS the power to remove asylum seekers to safe third countries where they would have access to a full and fair procedure for applying for asylum without the current necessity for bilateral agreements with those countries. This would allow the return of apprehended Central Americans to Mexico where they could apply for asylum.
Protects Taxpayer Dollars: While the Immigration and Nationality Act has long prohibited taxpayer-funded attorneys for aliens in removal proceedings, the Obama Administration used taxpayer dollars to pay for lawyers for unaccompanied alien minors. The bill makes the prohibition more explicit so that no Administration can disregard the law and provide taxpayer-funded counsel to unlawful immigrants.