“It’s clearly a way to game the system, and that’s what this is all about,” said former U.S. Attorney Pete Nuñez. “They don’t fit the definition.”
The Department of Homeland Security says that to qualify for asylum, a person must be “an alien in the United States who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of origin due to persecution.”
That’s the claim being made by these deportees, who are trying to reunite with their families in the United States.
The claim is warranted, “because they’ve lived in the U.S., they’re targeted, they’re persecuted,” said Dulce Guerrero, who is assisting the deportees through the ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign.
“Mexico is not Afghanistan,” said Nuñez, who argues the asylum status is meant to go to people fleeing war zones and natural disasters, not deported immigrants.
Nuñez believes many deportees are learning specific phrases they can say at a border facility, such as “I have a legitimate fear,” that automatically qualified them for consideration for asylum.
According to the Department of Homeland Security over 36,000 credible fear claims were made in 2013, more than double the number (13,391) in 2012.
Once an asylum request is made, it must be approved by an immigration judge during a hearing. Nuñez and other critics say getting a court date in front of an immigration judge can sometimes take weeks or longer. He says often immigrants are released to their families and asked to come back for a hearing, but many do not, blending back into communities illegally.
“There are hundreds of thousands of outstanding warrants for people who’ve failed to show up at immigration hearings,” said the former U.S. Attorney.