Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the process for seeking asylum as an immigrant in the United States is plagued with "rampant abuse and fraud."
"Unfortunately, this system is currently subject to rampant abuse and fraud. And as this system becomes overloaded with fake claims, it cannot deal effectively with just claims. The surge in trials, hearings, appeals, bond proceedings has been overwhelming," Session said in speech to the Justice Department's Executive Office For Immigration Review.
Sessions explained that expedited removal procedures for immigrants have exceptions for "aliens who have an actual, legitimate fear of returning to their homeland." In such a case, the immigrant may seek asylum and the Department of Homeland Security will evaluate the credibility of the claim of fear. If the claim is credible, that individual's case is then heard by an immigration judge.
Sessions said that too many immigrants take advantage of this process through their use of "fake claims" and noted that "there is no cost or risk for those who make a baseless claim."
According to statistics from the Department of Justice, the number of immigrants who have been granted asylum has gone down in recent years. In 2012, 10,575 immigrants were granted asylum compared to the 8,726 petitions granted in 2016.
"The system is being gamed, there's no doubt about it," Sessions said. "The credible-fear process was intended to be a lifeline for persons facing serious persecution, but it has become an easy ticket to illegal entry into the United States."
While Sessions noted that illegal border entry numbers are down "significantly" from recent years, he criticized the Obama administration for its expansion of "the concept of asylum beyond congressional intent" in 2009. He then praised the current administration for its efforts in countering illegal immigration.
"The president has promised he would return the country to a lawful system of immigration and he is determined to deliver on that promise," he said.
President Trump sent a list of immigration-related demands to Congress on Sunday which would significantly limit current immigration processes by overhauling the asylum system and creating a point-based system. The Trump administration's wishlist also limits family-based green cards to spouses and the minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, increases fees at border crossings, and facilitates deportation of gang members and unaccompanied children. The proposal would also hire 10,000 more immigration officers.
Ultimately, Sessions urged Congress to pass stricter immigration legislation making it more difficult for immigrants to be granted asylum in the United States.
"We have a crisis at our borders, and we intend to fix it," Sessions said.