The Trump administration has made it harder to gain asylum in the U.S., with the rate of successfully reviewed claims of credible fear cut in half during the first six months of 2018, according to new data.
At the same time, the likelihood that a review of an asylum claim will be successful varies wildly depending on where in the country it is heard.
In order to pursue an asylum claim in the U.S., immigrants must first pass a credible fear review before they are allowed to make their case before an immigration judge.
That review allows them to say why they are fleeing their country and establishes whether they have a legitimate fear of persecution or torture. Individuals who don’t pass the credible fear review can request a hearing to reconsider their plea, but many are quickly deported to their home countries.
It’s a process that many of the parents and children who were separated at the border will go through.
Last month, less than 15 percent of the reviews of credible fear review cases were approved and allowed to proceed to the next step in the asylum process – half the level that prevailed for the last six months of 2017, according to data released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
And whether a credible fear claim advances may depend on what courtroom an immigrant lands in. For example: 60 percent of the claims in Arlington, Virginia were successful, while just 20 percent of claims heard in Los Angeles advanced to the next stage.
‘They are trying to tighten asylum in this country to the point that it’s almost non-existent – particularly for people from Central America,’ said Wendy Young, president of Kids In Need of Defense, which represents many children who have been separated from their parents.
While many legal experts believe it is still possible to argue cases on behalf of the immigrants affected by Sessions’ decision, that will be impossible if they don’t make it past their credible fear review.
Sessions’ decision is devastating for women fleeing domestic abuse and families trying to escape rampant gang violence, Young said, noting that it is legal to pursue asylum in the U.S.
‘The gangs are very systematically taking over communities in Central America in a way that the governments in the region are either unable or unwilling to control,’ she said. ‘People can’t turn to local authorities for protection and they do the only thing they can which is run for their lives.’
Not every victim of domestic violence who arrives in the U.S. could successfully obtain asylum prior to Sessions’ decision, Young said.
‘You really have to establish that you have been persecuted, have a well-founded fear of persecution, and that your government is not protecting you from that violence,’ she said. ‘The standards for asylum are quite, quite high and it’s only the most extreme cases that are going to be granted.’