Border Crisis Resulting In Sharp Rise In Asylum Claims

Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 05:04 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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An already overburdened immigration court system will experience additional stress as the number of illegal juveniles from Central America crossing the southern border continues, according to a new report from Syracuse University.

It is estimated that the number of aliens filing legal claims for asylum will exceed 40,000 by October, according to the July 15 report.

The number of unaccompanied minors who have sought to stay in the U.S.:

 Fiscal Year   Total Filed    Pending     % Pending  
2005 8,900 74 0.80%
2006 7,906 92 1.20%
2007 7,049 117 1.70%
2008 6,249 209 3.30%
2009 5,726 437 7.60%
2010 7,162 1,036 14.50%
2011 6,425 1,462 22.80%
2012 11,411 4,771 41.80%
2013 21,351 14,812 69.40%
2014* 19,671 18,631 94.70%

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children were detained at the border between October 1 and June 15.

Federal data obtained by The Daily Caller shows that immigration officers have greatly increased the number of asylum claims approved in recent years. Between October 2012 and September 2013, approval was given to 39,393 asylum claims, which is triple the number of approvals in 2010.

Researchers also found that in a large number of cases, judges chose not to order deportation because they were found to have legitimate legal grounds to remain in this country.

Data also showed that the outcome of an asylum hearing depends greatly on whether or not a claimant has an attorney present for the hearing.

For those cases in which Immigration Court proceedings have concluded, the child was represented in 31,036 cases, and appeared without an attorney in the remaining 29,173 of juvenile cases heard by an Immigration Judge, the Syracuse report shows.

In 47 percent of the cases where a child did have representation, the court allowed the child to remain in the United States. In slightly more than one in four cases, the child was allowed to stay, compared with 26 percent in which a judge entered a "voluntary departure" order.

If no attorney was present, the researchers report that nine out of ten children were ordered deported and only 10 percent of the claims resulted in a granting of asylum.

Additional data obtained by TRAC shows juvenile cases are contributing to an increasing backlog of immigration cases, which reached an all-time high of 375,503 as of the end of June 2014. 

That represents an increase of more than 50,000 since the start of FY 2013. The three states with the largest backlogs are California (77,400 cases), Texas (62,143) and New York (55,010).

The current crisis is likely to exacerbate that backlog, as well as the lengthening waiting time for pending cases. The average wait time a case remains pending in the Immigration Courts of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is now 587 days.

According to TRAC, as of the end of June 2014, the court backlog for juveniles from Guatemala is the largest with 12,841 cases, closely followed by Honduras (12,696) and El Salvador (12,162).

While proponents of immigration reform assert that concerns about the background of some of those crossing the border, a report released in April by Syracuse University found that the Secure Communities program – designed to track illegals with criminal backgrounds – has fallen short of its intended goals.

Secure Communities is a joint effort between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that uses existing information to identify criminal aliens who merit deportation "without imposing new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement."

Under Secure Communities, the FBI transmits the fingerprints to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to check against its immigration databases to determine whether an individual is illegally in the US or has a criminal conviction. ICE is responsible for prioritizing the removal of "criminal aliens" and repeat immigration violators.

TRAC examined millions of ICE's case-by-case records on deportation and found that in FY 2013 only 12 percent of all deportees had been found to have committed a serious or "Level 1" offense based on the agency's own definitions to identify individuals who pose a serious threat to public safety or national security.

According to the report, ICE's efforts have "not increased the removal of its primary announced targets: non-citizens who have committed crimes other than minor violations. In fact, the number of such individuals deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has actually declined over the last four years."

Furthermore, the report found that while there was an increase in the number of deportees during FY 2011 who had been convicted of an offense, "this increase was largely the result of a sharp increase in those picked up and deported for traffic violations — not serious criminals."

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