Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, the agency said, an average of 30 people per day have arrived at San Diego ports asking for asylum, compared with roughly 170,000 travelers who cross the border there legally each day.
Critics of current immigration reform efforts in Washington have claimed would-be immigrants are using the credible fear claim seeking asylum as a loophole to gain legal entry into the U.S., citing fear of drug cartel violence in Mexico. Immigration experts say the concerns are overstated.
The issue gained new attention last month after a group of nine immigration rights activists presented themselves at the Arizona border in Mexico seeking asylum. After spending several weeks in detention, they have since been released into the U.S. pending hearings before an immigration judge who will make a final decision on whether to grant their requests.
DHS is quick to point out that such requests from Mexican citizens are rarely granted, noting that on average, 91 percent are denied.
In order to win asylum in the United States, an immigrant must to prove he or she is being persecuted because of race, religion, political view, nationality or membership in a particular social group. They also must prove that their government is either part of the persecution or unable or unwilling to protect them.
Immigration lawyers also point out that the bar is extremely high for being granted asylum in the U.S.
“Most people who get these credible fear interviews, even if they pass, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be released,” said David Leopold, an Ohio immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “You could be sitting in detention for months and months until you get your asylum hearing, and then you’re denied and sent back.”
This whole kerfuffle started when a local Fox affiliate reported breathlessly that:
A loophole is allowing hundreds of immigrants across the Mexico border in to the United States. Immigrants are being taught to use “key words and phrases” to be allowed to enter and stay in the country.
The story was then picked up by Buzzfeed (which helpfully included a scary image of brown people carrying personal belongings and walking somewhere) and given further viral exposure:
Unstated in either of these pieces is the incredibly low-rate of successful asylum claims for Mexicans claiming persecution. In most cases, they will rot in immigration detention for a couple of weeks or months and be sent back to Mexico.
Of course, it’s far too late to debunk this lie now. The damage is already done thanks to the right-wing rage peddlers at Fox News and Buzzfeed. We will be hearing about this “story” for years now from easily-outraged, anti-immigration right-wingers who already believe our current president (the one who deported 1.5 million immigrants) is an open borders advocate.