Attorney General Bill Barr decided Tuesday that asylum seekers who meet the “credible fear” threshold are no longer eligible to be released on bond, stymying at least one method illegal immigrants use to gain access to the United States.
The new rule will apply to all asylum seekers who demonstrate “credible fear” in their home countries, regardless if they turned themselves in at ports of entry or if they were detained between the ports.
Barr’s decision stems from an October 2018 review of Department of Justice (DOJ) policy regarding bond hearings for immigrants seeking asylum, and overrules a previous Board of Immigration Appeals decision from 2005.
According to a DOJ official, Barr was informed by the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that immigrants who establish credible fear “shall be detained for further consideration of the application for asylum” or may be “parole[d] into the United States . . . for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have the jurisdiction to parole immigrants — otherwise they will be held indefinitely while they wait to appear in front of an immigration judge.
The ability of illegal immigrants to meet the “credible fear” threshold and then be released into the interior of the United States pending further immigration proceedings has proven to be a significant challenge for the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump has accused some immigrants of gaming the asylum system and receiving coaching on how to pass an interview with an asylum officer, even if the immigrant knows they will not ultimately be granted asylum after the full process. According to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, 80% of asylum cases at the southern border do not conclude with entry to the United States.
Trump addressed this issue at a rally in early April, telling the crowd, “You have people coming up — you know, they’re all met by the lawyers, the lawyers. And they come out, they’re all met by the lawyers and they say, ‘Say the following phrase: I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life.’”
“It’s a big fat con job, folks,” he said.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California handed Trump a rare win this week as well, lifting a temporary injunction on the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases are processed.
The policy serves as an attempt to ease the backlog of cases faced by immigration officials at the southern border, as illegal arrivals are on track to hit 1 million by the end of the year.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on AG Barr’s decision on bond for asylum seekers.
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