Friday, May 2, 2014
In response to growing numbers of individuals presenting themselves at the border who are seeking asylum, John Lafferty, the USCIS Chief of the Asylum Division, revealed last month that he had issued new guidelines on determining credible fear before prospective applicants can apply for asylum. His office developed a new "Lesson Plan" for asylum officers to follow on February 28, entitled, the “ADOTC Lesson Plan, Credible Fear of Persecution and Torture Determinations.” I have reviewed the 47-page Lesson Plan and am deeply troubled by its tenor, format, and content. In my opinion, the Lesson Plan undermines the asylum process set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act by sending an erroneous message to Asylum Offices about the standard to be applied in assessing credible fear claims. A fair reading of the Lesson Plan leaves one with the clearly improper message that Asylum Officers must apply a standard that far surpasses what is intended by the statutory framework and U.S. asylum law.
As a matter of public policy, the application of the credible fear standard in a harsh manner that does not give the benefit of the doubt to imperfect yet reasonable claims will be something that our nation will regret in the not-too-distant future. U.S. immigration enforcement officers have committed tragic mistakes in the past when it comes to certain classes of asylum seekers. In retrospect, our actions in those cases were not simply embarrassing; they were shameful because lives were unnecessarily lost as a result of bad judgment and political expediency.
To read my critique of the new credible fear lesson plan, please click here.