Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced a new five-year Strategic Plan. The Plan’s top three priorities are: (1) preventing terrorism and enhancing security; (2) securing and managing our borders; and (3) enforcing and administering our immigration laws. There is not a whole lot in the Plan that relates to asylum, perhaps because ICE does not view asylum seekers as a major concern. However, a few sections of the Plan may impact asylum seekers:
One objective of the plan is to dismantle organized alien smuggling. In my practice, I’ve seen a number of asylum seekers who have followed a smuggling route from Africa to the U.S. (via South and Central America). My guess is, this operation is too small to garner much attention from ICE, though there certainly are examples of individual smugglers brought to justice. We’ll see if ICE’s plan impacts these small-scale operations, and whether it does anything to stem the modest flow of asylum seekers entering at our Southern border.
The report also states that “newly arriving aliens who do not successfully evade detection are apprehended, detained, and removed as appropriate by law.” As long as these arriving aliens continue to have opportunities to request asylum and credible fear interviews at the border, this provision should not greatly impact asylum seekers. The danger is that the practice of cajoling, threatening, and tricking arriving aliens into waiving their right to seek protection will become more common in a culture of stepped up enforcement. Such behavior is not supposed to happen now, but I have heard many reports that it does. Hopefully, ICE’s get-tough approach will not compromise our human rights obligations.
The plan continues:
To best protect the system, ICE will work closely with USCIS and the Department of State to identify, address, and prevent the many large-scale, organized frauds perpetrated on the government each year. In addition, ICE will pursue criminal cases against individuals who lie on applications, engage in fraud, and pose a threat to national security or public safety. As ICE attorneys have great insight into possible fraud, they will actively refer cases to ICE agents and, as possible, serve as Special Assistant United States Attorneys to assist with prosecutions. ICE will expand the number of document and benefit fraud task forces to every Special Agent in Charge office. Following criminal cases, ICE will work closely with USCIS to address lingering administrative fraud. Also to protect the integrity of the immigration system, ICE will remove aliens who receive final orders, with a focus on convicted criminals and those who have most recently received orders.
I’ve written before about methods to combat asylum fraud. While ICE can target cases of individual fraud, I’ve always felt that the best policy is to pursue attorneys, notarios, and others who create fraudulent cases. These people are the most culpable, and removing them from the scene will have a greater impact than removing an individual alien. Plus, from my conversations with ICE attorneys, it should not be too hard to identify the fraudsters. The danger, of course, is that legitimate asylum seekers will be intimidated by over-zealous attorneys looking for fraud. In an atmosphere of increased enforcement, it will be more important than ever for ICE personnel to be sensitive to the situation of legitimate asylum seekers.