Democrats who oppose changing the law to allow quicker removals of families and unaccompanied young people illegally crossing the southwestern border into the U.S. often argue that those entering the country illegally are entitled to a "day in court."
The illegal immigrants "should be given their days in court," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday. "The kids should have their day in court," said Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro before a White House meeting this week. Young people should be given "a meaningful day in court to protect their rights under our laws," added Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
Now, new numbers released by the House Judiciary Committee show the "vast majority" of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum are granted it before even appearing before a judge. "Information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that shows 65 percent of unaccompanied alien minors' asylum applications have been immediately approved by asylum officers in Fiscal Year 2014," says a Judiciary Committee statement. "And this is just the first bite of the apple. Many more cases can be approved later. Where an asylum officer does not approve the application, it is then referred to an immigration judge where the applicant can try again. If that fails, they can continue to appeal their case."
The Judiciary Committee says asylum approval rates have "increased dramatically" under the Obama administration. Overall, according to the committee statement, "Approval rates by asylum officers have increased from 28 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2013 and approval rates by immigration judges in affirmative cases have increased from 51 percent in 2007 to 74 percent in 2013." And that does not count appeals.
"Once individuals are granted asylum," the report notes, "they have access to all major federal welfare programs."
Complicating matters, according to the committee, is the rate of fraud in asylum cases. The committee says "an internal Department of Homeland Security report" has shown that "at least 70 percent of asylum cases contain proven or possible fraud."
"President Obama's refusal to crack down on rampant asylum fraud is one of the many reasons we are witnessing a surge of Central Americans seeking to enter the U.S. illegally at the border," said the Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, in a statement. "New data showing that the vast majority of Central Americans' asylum claims are immediately approved will only worsen the situation along our southern border by encouraging more to come and take advantage of the situation."