Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that he is taking control of the immigration court system in the United States. Cases involving immigration are tried and adjudicated via the executive branch. The attorney general has the responsibility to determine final decisions on all immigration cases. This traditionally has been delegated to courts and other authorities just because it is a massive job. But now, that’s changing.

At the heart of this change is Sessions’ desire to stop the abuses by illegal immigrants using political asylum to gain legal status. This stemmed from a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals to allow victims of domestic abuse to use this designation. In the past, it has been used for groups of people who were subjugated by their governments. And while noble, it opened the floodgates for illegal immigrants to gain status.

Sessions addressed this in a recent speech:

“As you all well know, one of our major difficulties today is the asylum process.

“The asylum system is being abused to the detriment of the rule of law, sound public policy, and public safety— and to the detriment of people with just claims. Saying a few simple words—claiming a fear of return—is now transforming a straightforward arrest for illegal entry and immediate return into a prolonged legal process, where an alien may be released from custody into the United States and possibly never show up for an immigration hearing. This is a large part of what has been accurately called, “catch and release”.

“Beginning in 2009, more and more aliens who passed an initial USCIS credible fear review were released from custody into the United States pending a full hearing. Powerful incentives were created for aliens to come here illegally and claim a fear of return. In effect, word spread that by asserting this fear, they could remain in the United States one way or the other. Far too often, that rumor proved to be true.

“The results are just what one would expect. The number of illegal entrants has surged. Credible fear claims have skyrocketed, and the percentage of asylum claims found meritorious by our judges declined.

“That’s because the vast majority of the current asylum claims are not valid. For the last five years, only 20 percent of claims have been found to be meritorious after a hearing before an Immigration Judge. In addition, some fifteen percent are found invalid by USCIS as a part of their initial screening.

“Further illustrating this point, in 2009, DHS conducted more than 5,000 credible fear reviews. By 2016, only seven years later, that number had increased to 94,000. The number of these aliens placed in immigration court proceedings went from fewer than 4,000 to more than 73,000 by 2016—nearly a 19-fold increase—overwhelming the system and leaving legitimate claims buried.

“Now we all know that many of those crossing our border illegally are leaving difficult and dangerous situations. And we understand all are due proper respect and the proper legal process. But we cannot abandon legal discipline and sound legal concepts.

“Under the INA, asylum is available for those who leave their home country because of persecution or fear on account of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems— even all serious problems— that people face every day all over the world.

“Today, exercising the responsibility given to me under the INA, I will be issuing a decision that restores sound principles of asylum and long standing principles of immigration law.

“We have not acted hastily, but carefully. In my judgment, this is a correct interpretation of the law. It advances the original intent and purpose of the INA, and it will be your duty to carry out this ruling.

“This decision will provide more clarity for you. It will help you to rule consistently and fairly.”

Asylum was created specifically to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide. Changing the meaning of that made a big loophole in which unproven claims of abuse could be used to gain legal status. On the surface this will look like a cruel move. That’s the way the left will peddle it for sure. But ultimately Congress will need to change the law if they disagree with his decision.

And of course the left is unhappy: