Hundreds of illegal immigrants from terror hotspots are using what critics
describe as loopholes in U.S. immigration policy to try to remain in the
country indefinitely, according to data obtained by Congress.
Taking a page from the playbook used by Central American women and children
to gain U.S. entry, hundreds of immigrants from Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan,
Iran and Syria caught entering the U.S. last year made asylum claims to
avoid deportation – and, in doing so, asserted they had a “credible
fear of persecution.”
This phrase is important because it allows them to be released and work
in the U.S. Prior to 2009, the U.S. held in custody many asylum seekers
entering the U.S. illegally until their cases were resolved in court --
but an Obama administration policy change allowed those fearing persecution
to be released.
The finding that asylum seekers from turbulent Middle Eastern and African
countries are now using this phrase to gain entry and remain on U.S. soil
has raised security concerns on Capitol Hill.
"These numbers illustrate vulnerabilities throughout our immigration
system," Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., said Tuesday. "Dangerous
criminals and potential terrorists are gaming the system without consequence.
The Obama administration is compromising our national security and safety
for its political agenda."
DeSantis, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, is set
to hold a hearing Wednesday on the potential threat posed by these individuals
in light of the Paris and Brussels attacks.His subcommittee obtained the
findings on the methods being using to remain in the U.S.Witnesses set
to appear at the hearing Wednesday are Ronald Vitiello, acting chief of
the U.S. Border Patrol; and Brandon Judd, president of the National Border
Stats obtained by the subcommittee from October 2014 to September 2015
show that the bulk of the “credible fear” claims still are
coming from Central American and Mexican immigrants. But 80 were from
Syrian nationals, 191 were from Pakistani nationals, and 776 were from
"They are coming through the backdoor," Judd said. "Do I
believe they have a credible fear? In a small percentage, maybe. But the
vast majority we arrest are telling our agents that they are coming because
they know they will be released. That's why they are coming."
Judd said illegal immigrants have found a second loophole as well. By claiming
they arrived in the U.S. before 2014, immigrants are able to avoid detention
In January 2014, President Obama announced his “priorities”
program, which ordered agents to worry chiefly about criminals, national
security risks and illegal immigrants who came into the U.S. after that
date. Judd claims supervisors at the Mexican and Canadian borders have
told agents not to bother turning other immigrants over to Immigration
and Customs Enforcement since "they won't be deported anyway."
"President Obama said we need to take these people out of the shadows.
The fact is we took them out, and now we are releasing them right back
into the shadows. What was the point?” he said. “The court
system is so backlogged, we're told they are never going to see a
judge anyway. So just let them go."
In the past, illegal immigrants from outside Mexico were subject to expedited
removal. The process allowed agents to deport non-citizens without going
through a formal and lengthy removal proceeding before an immigration judge.
Now, however, Judd said anyone who claims they've been living in the
U.S. continuously from prior to 2014 is not even being turned over to
ICE and given a “Notice to Appear” in court. Fox News confirmed
the practice with sources in two border sectors.
"At least a NTA required them to show up in court. What we have now
is amnesty through policy," Judd said. "We are flat-out letting
Requests for comment from the Department of Homeland Security were not returned.
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