National Public Radio (NPR) reports the Trump Administration is considering stripping asylum status from those who won it fraudulently. During a 2012 investigation into New York asylum mills, federal prosecutors arrested 30 immigration lawyers, paralegals and interpreters who had enabled asylum-seekers to acquire benefits fraudulently. The 3,500 asylees they helped, and possibly more than 10,000 family members who obtained “derivative asylum status,” could be deported if officials find fraud occurred.
In 2010, DHS started an investigation dubbed Operation Fiction Writer in Manhattan’s Chinatown when officials realized a large number of Chinese nationals were seeking and obtaining asylum. One of the employees caught in the investigation chose to cooperate with officials to avoid prosecution. He told officials his law firm gave asylum-seekers “boilerplate” persecution stories, coached them to give asylum officers false details, and developed documents to support their fraudulent asylum claims.
The man, who NPR calls “Lawrence” to hide his identity, started as an interpreter, then moved on to writing stories to support asylum claims. He took certain details about a client that were true and worked in fabricated instances of Chinese government persecution based on religion, politics or family limitations. He wrote 500 to 600 fake stories for clients over a few years and developed a study guide for coaches to use with them.
“Lawrence” exposed the people involved in developing fraudulent applications in Chinatown and Flushing, New York and gave officials his study guide, which detailed every step of the fraud. He also wore a hidden camera to implicate as many people as possible. His assistance resulted in convictions for many in the law firms but the Obama Administration decided not to criminally prosecute clients.
When House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) learned about Operation Fiction Writer, he demanded that Attorney General Loretta Lynch reopen thousands of asylum cases to determine which clients had lied on their applications. However, the Justice Department did not seriously pursue the matter until President Trump came into office.
NPR spoke to Katherine Tichacek, a USCIS spokeswoman, who said “USCIS, the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor and the Executive Office of Immigration Review are reviewing these cases to maintain the integrity in our nation’s asylum system and to ensure that the original asylum grant was lawfully obtained…The agencies are reviewing each case file and making lawful determinations in accordance with due process of law.”
When their review identifies a case of potential fraud, lawyers at ICE will ask the Executive Office of Immigration Review to reopen it. If an immigration judge agrees, a hearing will be held where the judge will reaffirm asylum or terminate it.
Historically, the Chinese have won more asylum cases than foreign nationals from any other country. About 22 percent of those granted asylum in 2016 were Chinese foreign nationals. The next largest groups were foreign nationals from El Salvador (10 percent) and Guatemala (9 percent).
Chinese are more successful at winning asylum because their stories tend to conform with the criteria asylum officers and immigration judges use to grant asylum - a well-founded fear of persecution by a government. Central Americans have a more difficult time proving governmental persecution because it’s hard to demonstrate their government only ignored the gang violence targeting them.
Read more at NPR.
Updated: Tue, Oct 16th 2018 @ 11:30am EDT