US Attorney General Sessions Claims Immigration Lawyers Using Loophole to Grant Asylum
WESLACO – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told immigration officials that lawyers are committing fraud for those seeking asylum.
The journey to get to the U.S. is not easy. The asylum process is long. The government said some are taking shortcuts and creating a backlog in the immigration system.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to a woman that is seeking asylum from El Salvador. She said she was forced by circumstances to leave her brother and now six-year-old son in Central America.
She wanted to keep her identity hidden for her protection and will be referred as Maria.
We first met Maria a few months ago. She was going to apply for the Victim Assistance Program.
Now, she's seeking asylum saying she had to flee the violence in El Salvador. She said her young brother was murdered.
"He died because of the gangs in El Salvador, due to the monthly quota that they had imposed. There was a month that I couldn't pay. They got even by putting a bullet through his head and in his chest,” said Maria. “They didn't give time to say wait or we're going to send half because during that time I was without a job and I couldn't help him. I was only 18 and I was working like normal people do."
She’s waiting for the government to make their decision. She explained others can't wait and become desperate.
"I see so many people risk themselves because they take so long to get their documents. I've seen many friends submit fake documents and I don't want to do that because I don't want to lose my opportunity. The need is what drives them to it,” said Maria.
The government wants to reform the asylum system. In an address to the executive office for immigration review, Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained more than 600,000 cases are pending.
He explained fraud and abuse are alive and well in our asylum system and people are exploiting the loopholes.
"I don't know what loopholes he's talking about. Somebody asks for asylum he is given an interview and second interview by the judge, a credible fear interview, not the hearing, a credible fear interview and if he found no merit, without merit, he's sent back," said immigration attorney Lionel Perez.
He explained the five attributes to be granted asylum: race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular source or group that is being persecuted.
Session claims the increase in the number of credible fear claims from 2009 to 2016 went from 3,000 to 69,000. He said "dirty immigration lawyers" are providing their clients with "the magic words" to get asylum and creating these large numbers.
'"I do not doubt that there may be some lawyers that tell a client of theirs to file for a benefit to which he is not entitled to," said Perez.
Perez said these accusations by Sessions make other lawyers look bad.
"It's kind of low, it's kind of underhanded," said Perez.
Maria is waiting for a chance to reunite with her son.
"That’s why I needed the documents to process quickly because I need to take him out. He's in danger over there," said Maria.
She will have to see an immigration judge first.
In Sessions' statement, he said this is all part of Pres. Trump’s legislative priorities for asylum reform, swift border returns, and enhanced interior enforcement.