By Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times
At least 70 percent of asylum applications showed signs of fraud, according to a secret 2009 internal government audit that found many of those cases had been approved anyway.
The 2009 fraud assessment, obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and reviewed by The Washington Times, suggests a system open to abuse and exploitation at a time when the number of people applying for asylum in the U.S. has skyrocketed, particularly along the southwestern border.
Another report obtained by the committee suggests that the government isnâ€™t detaining most of those who apply for asylum, including those awaiting a final judgment.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said the documents taint the credibility of the asylum system, which is designed to provide an outlet for foreigners who face real risks of being harmed if they remain in their home countries.
â€œAsylum fraud undermines the integrity of our immigration system and hurts U.S. taxpayers. Once individuals are granted asylum, they receive immediate access to all major federal welfare programs. Our immigration system should be generous to those persecuted around the globe, but we must also ensure our compassion isnâ€™t being abused by those seeking to game the system,â€ Mr. Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement to The Times.
â€œBecause our immigration laws are so loosely enforced by the Obama administration, we should not be surprised to see so much fraud in the system,â€ he said. â€œPresident Obamaâ€™s continued refusal to enforce our laws on the books encourages more illegal immigration and invites fraud.â€
The Homeland Security Department said its processes are dictated by law and that adjudicators at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that reviews the applications, have to follow set standards.
â€œA USCIS officer must find that a â€˜significant possibilityâ€™ exists that the individual may be found eligible for asylum or withholding of removal. During the credible fear review, USCIS initiates a background check using immigration, national security and criminal databases,â€ said Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for Homeland Security.
Final judgments are made by immigration judges, but those cases can take years to wind through the system â€” leaving the initial USCIS judgment in place.
The department says it continually updates its fraud prevention techniques.
The asylum system has long been a point of pride for the U.S., but also has sparked a feverish debate over just how generous the system should be and what sorts of checks the U.S. government should go through when trying to determine who qualifies.
Applicants are required to prove they face persecution back home â€” using what is known as a â€œcredible fearâ€ claim â€” and that they donâ€™t pose a danger to the U.S. They are held during that initial assessment but often are released after that.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced changes that would make it easier for those who had tangential involvement with terrorism to win asylum or refugee status.
Under existing law, those who provided â€œmaterial supportâ€ to terrorists are to be denied their claims, but State Department and Homeland Security officials announced a new policy that said the support has to have been significant, and must have occurred outside of normal commercial transactions or family interactions.
Democrats on Capitol Hill hailed the changes, saying they will help particularly with Syrian refugees who are caught in a web of competing groups, some of whom have been designated terrorist agents by the U.S.