More than 36,000 people were granted asylum this past fiscal year.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: A report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released today says that the number of immigrants entering the US via the asylum route has skyrocketed over the past year.
During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 36,026 people were granted temporary asylum in the US, the highest number in 20 years. The previous fiscal year, that number was just 13,931, representing an increase of 158.6% over just one year.
Earlier this year, Indians were noted for seeking asylum in the US at a far higher rate over the past few years than ever before, increasing by over 2,300%. India, however, is not alone, and is in fact a relatively minor player in terms of its citizens seeking asylum here.
The increase has been attributed mostly to individuals from Latin American countries like the Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Mexico. India also figures into the recent upsurge, but to a small degree than those countries.
Several lawmakers have speculated that foreigners are simply using claims of asylum as an easy way to gain access into the country, after which point they simply stay in the hopes of eventually gaining legal citizenship.
The sheer number of asylum seekers in the US makes it impractical for law enforcement and the INS to keep tabs on each and every one of them, and some fear that these asylum seekers could even be working in concert with drug cartels andÂ terrorists.
During a Judiciary Committee hearing held last week, Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said “the purpose is not to obtain asylum, but rather to game the system by getting a free pass into the U.S. and a court date for which they do not plan to show up.”
Committee members also pointed out that several of the countries with the highest number of asylum seekers have high rates of violent crime, further lending credence to that theory.
Other members, however, said that an increase in asylum seekers did not automatically equate to an increase in those trying to con the US government. Several factors in other countries, particularly LGBT rights, have caused people to flee for more liberal shores.
There is little indication in the CRS report, however, for why the number spiked so drastically in just one year.
Asylum is only given to those who can establish a credible reason for not being able to live in their home country, such as religious persecution, political persuasion, and so on. Once given temporary asylum, the person will have to appear in court on a pre-appointed date and be reviewed, at which point a judge will decide if they may stay in the country longer or not. Backlogs, however, have made the wait for court dates brutally long, with some taking as long as two years.
Those who meet the guidelines established by Immigration and Customs Enforcement can be given work permits and can continue to stay in the US if they’re not a threat to national security, are not a flight risk, and can provide proof of their nationality. Those who are denied are immediately deported back to their home countries.
The CRS report does not say how many of asylum cases are suspected or under investigation for possible fraud, if any.
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