INTRODUCTION OF A BILL TO REDUCE POLITICAL ASYLUM ABUSE; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 129
(Extensions of Remarks - August 04, 1995)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1635-E1636]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


        INTRODUCTION OF A BILL TO REDUCE POLITICAL ASYLUM ABUSE

                                 ______


                            HON. BOB FRANKS

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, August 3, 1995
  Mr. FRANKS of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing a bill 
to root out fraud and abuse in our current system of political asylum.
  Throughout the world, the human rights of prisoners of conscience and 
political opponents are casually exploited. Amnesty International's 
annual report, released last month, cites the fact that 78 countries 
still hold ``prisoners of conscience.''
  For those people, the United States must extend its hand and offer 
refuge through political asylum.
  Our Nation has always been a beacon of hope for people around the 
world seeking a safe haven from political, ethnic, racial, or religious 
persecution.
  But it is important to keep the doctrine of political asylum in 
perspective. It represents only one element of America's immigration 
policies.
  Last year, for example, our Government allowed more than 800,000 
aliens to legally enter the United States. Of that total, only 11,784 
were granted political asylum.
  And until 1980, political asylum was a treasured and sparingly-used 
provision in our immigration laws, enabling our Nation to fulfill its 
commitment to protect those fleeing their homelands because of 
oppression.
  But changes made in the asylum laws in the 1980s opened up the system 
to widespread abuse.
  These well-intended but ill-conceived reforms included providing an 
unintended economic incentive for aliens to seek entry into the United 
States by claiming political asylum.
  Most importantly, it gave asylum seekers permission to legally work 
in the United States while their claims were being considered by 
officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS].
  Although President Clinton recently modified the work-permit 
provision, the floodgates had already been opened.
  Asylum seekers have been pouring into the United States in staggering 
numbers.
  Prior to 1980, less than 5,000 people a year sought political asylum 
in the United States. But last year alone, a record number, 150,000 in 
all--filed claims of political asylum. The New York-New Jersey 
metropolitan region is becoming a magnet for individuals seeking the 
protected status of political asylum. During the first quarter of this 
year, 8,165 people applied for asylum through the Newark District 
Office. Another 8,795 aliens made the same claim at the New York INS 
office.
  The political asylum process has spun out of control.
  Moreover, political asylum has become an increasingly popular route 
to circumvent safeguards in the law that help us to weed out bogus and 
fraudulent claims.
  Contrary to popular opinion, it is not easy to gain legal entry into 
the United States. That fact can be attested to by the 3.4 million 
people around the world who are waiting for visas to be issued by our 
Government in order that they can legally come to the United States. 
Some of those people, depending on their home country and the 
immigration quota that applies to it, wait up to 10 years before they 
are issued a visa.
  While many of those who arrive on our shores seeking political asylum 
have an arguable basis for their claim, others use it as an opportunity 
to leap frog over those 3.4 million people who are waiting in line for 
the issuance of their visa.
  Even though the criteria are lax, the law on political asylum is 
clear when in says that the asylum candidate ``must face a reasonable 
fear of persecution.''
  Today, there are people boarding planes and boats around the world, 
hoping to start a new life in the United States with phony claims of 
political asylum. And the odds are they'll be successful.
  Political asylum has become a popular backdoor entrance to the United 
States. And with good reason. The system is easy to exploit.
  By simply stepping off a plane and proclaiming the magic words 
``political asylum,'' an individual gains special status that enables 
him to stay in the United States until his claim is verified. The 
lengthy and cumbersome process of reviewing asylum cases is filled with 
opportunities for an individual, with no legitimate claim of political 
asylum, to slip away and become part of our Nation's ever-increasing 
population of illegal immigrants.
  New Jersey has become a major center for illegal immigrants. The INS 
ranks my State sixth in the Nation in the number of illegal immigrants.
  Of the thousands of people who arrive each year in the New York-New 
Jersey area seeking political asylum, only 1.6 percent are actually 
detained until the outcome of their claim is determined.
  The sheer volume of asylum claims and the severe shortage of 
detention facilities, has forced the Immigration and Naturalization 
Service to release a vast majority of those awaiting adjudication of 
their claim of political asylum. They are set free--released on their 
own recognizance and told to return on a specified date for a hearing.
  At least one-third of those set free will never be seen again. They 
simply disappear, joining the ranks of the illegal immigrant population 
in our area.
  Of all the political asylum claims, only 10 to 15 percent are found 
to be legitimate by the INS and are granted permission to remain in the 
United States. The others are ordered back to their homeland.
  But when the time comes to report for deportation, the vast 
majority--more than 90 percent--do not show up. And in all
 likelihood will never be found. They too have joined the illegal 
immigrant population.

  The backlog of pending asylum applications has swelled to almost 
450,000 cases, leading to extensive delays. Those unfortunate 
individuals with legitimate claims of political as asylum are forced to 
spend months and even years in this country living with the uncertainty 
of not knowing whether they will be forced to return to their homeland.
  The facts leave little doubt that the current system of political 
asylum is out of control.
  Today, I am introducing legislation that will significantly modify 
how the INS deals with claims of political asylum. It is designed to 
send a clear signal around the world that fraudulent claims of 
political asylum will no longer be tolerated. The goal of my 
legislation is to preserve the fundamental principle of political 
asylum, while closing up the giant loopholes that are corrupting the 
process.
  My bill targets individuals who escape or leave their homeland and 
travel to another country before coming to the United States.
  It establishes a series of procedures that will have the effect of 
deterring those with no legitimate claim of political asylum from ever 
venturing to the United States.
  Let me explain the key provisions of the bill.
  It seems to me that an individual who fears for his safety because he 
is suffering severe discrimination or life-threatening treatment should 
be required to stop at the first country that would offer him ``safe 
haven.''
  But under the current law, these refugees most often choose to pass 
by the first country that could offer safe haven and continue their 
journey to the United States. Fifteen years and hundreds of thousands 
of claims for political asylum later has taught us that many of these 
individuals are not seeking a safe refuge that comes from political 
asylum, they are actually looking for the economic opportunities that 
America has to offer.
  Under my legislation, anyone who passes through another country that 
could offer a safe haven for political asylum would not be allowed to 
travel through to the United States and remain here while their claim 
is being adjudicated.
  Upon entering the U.S., these asylum seekers would be sent back 
within hours to the country they passed through that would offer them 
political asylum. European countries have been following a similar 
course of action for many years.
  In 1990, The European Community convened the Dublin Convention to 
establish a uniform standard for examining applications for asylum 
seekers that travel through several countries. The purpose of the 
Convention was to ensure that an application was examined by only one 
Member State, ignoring the preferences of asylum seekers that results 
in ``nation shopping.'' Members incorporated the ``country of safe 
haven'' principle which requires asylum requests to be reviewed by the 

[[Page E 1636]]
first country which the applicant arrives in outside his country of 
origin.
  In July of 1993, Germany overhauled their asylum law,
   effectively reducing their monthly asylum application load from 
37,000, after an explosion of asylum applications that increased from 
20,000 in 1983 to 438,000 a decade later. Germany's asylum laws also 
include a ``country of safe haven'' provision making certain asylum 
applicants ineligible.

  It's time the United States follow the lead of the European Community 
and adopt the ``first safe haven'' approach. By doing so, we would 
eliminate the incentive for aliens to ``nation shop,'' looking around 
for the country they believe offers them the best opportunity for 
economic prosperity, not political freedom.
  In order to ensure that those with legitimate claims for asylum are 
protected and find a safe haven, my bill provides added protection for 
legitimate asylum seekers. Under special circumstances, it allows them 
to stay in the United States awaiting a hearing. An alien who returned 
to the first country they passed through which could offer a safe 
haven, but was denied entry, would be allowed to remain in the United 
States pending a hearing. In addition, if an individual can demonstrate 
that being returned to the first country of safe haven could subject 
him to further persecution, he too would be allowed to stay. But the 
bill attaches a significant condition to asylum-seekers who are 
returned to the United States--one that further discourages abuse of 
the system. While they are in the United States awaiting a hearing on 
whether they can stay here legally, they must be held in a detention 
facility.
  This fall Congress is expected to take up the issue of immigration 
reform. In the coming weeks, I will work to make sure this new approach 
to granting political asylum is included in the immigration reform 
package to be considered by the House.
  The United States is a Nation of immigrants. We should continue to 
embrace people of different races and cultures who want to make America 
their new home. Their presence enriches our culture and makes our 
nation a very special place.
  America should continue to be the land of opportunity for legal 
immigrants but not for those who take advantage of our generosity and 
our compassion to enter the country illegally. I urge my colleagues to 
cosponsor my legislation.


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