On February 28, 2014, the Asylum Division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued updated instructions for asylum officers regarding the processes and legal standards that govern the adjudication of “credible fear” claims. This action follows a doubling of the number of credible fear claims handled by the Asylum Division in 2013 from that of the previous year, largely originating from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Ecuador.
In 1996, the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) established the expedited removal process which allows for the summary deportation by immigration inspectors of certain aliens who are apprehended and who do not have proper travel documents. This measure, which was intended to increase security at ports of entry and applies to those apprehended within 100 miles of any US border who have been in the country for less than 14 days, contains provisions to prevent the summary removal of persons with bona fide protection claims who are seeking asylum in the United States. Under these provisions, migrants who indicate an intention to apply for asylum or express a fear of return to their home country are referred by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to US asylum officers for determination on whether they have a credible fear of persecution or torture. Section 235(b)(1)(B)(v) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines “credible fear of persecution” as “a significant possibility, taking into account the credibility of the statements made by the alien in support of his or her claim and such other facts as are known to the officer, that the alien could establish eligibility for asylum under Section 208 [of the INA].” If an asylum officer finds through a “credible fear” interview that there is a significant possibility for the person to prevail upon their asylum claim, the case is referred to an immigration judge for a full asylum hearing. However, if an asylum officer finds that the migrant does not have a credible fear of persecution or torture, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) will remove the individual from the United States.
In a memo accompanying an updated lesson plan for asylum officers, John Lafferty, Chief of USCIS’s Asylum Division, clarified the “significant possibility” standard of review and addressed the concern that claims were being referred for which there was only a minimal or mere possibility of success in being granted asylum. According to the memo, the revised Credible Fear Lesson Plan clearly states that a claim that has no possibility or only a minimal or mere possibility does not meet the “significant possibility” standard.
CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin speaks with Emily Kopp, co-host of the show Federal Drive on Federal News Radio, and discusses the credible fear process, the implications of the revised guidelines for credible fear adjudication, and the purported reasons for the increase in credible fear claims.
To listen to the full interview, visit: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/473/3616404/Donald-Kerwin-Executive-Director-Center-for-Migration-Studies.