Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday declared the U.S. asylum system “broken” because of what he said was fraud committed by immigrants who cross the border illegally and avoid deportation by claiming persecution at home, Politico reports. “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,” Sessions said during a visit to a Justice Department division in Virginia that oversees the immigration courts. He said “smart lawyers” manipulate the system by counseling immigrants to shape their stories in order to win initial determinations that they have a “credible fear” of being persecuted at home.
“The system is being gamed. There’s no doubt about it. 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,” Sessions said. There has been a surge in recent asylum applications, from about 5,000 credible fear reviews in 2009 to 94,000 in fiscal year 2016. Sessions called on Congress to adopt proposed immigration law changes released by the White House this week, which include a major overhaul of the asylum system. The proposals were part of a broader set of policies President Trump wants as part of a deal with Congress to provide relief to so-called Dreamers — immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children and now are facing the loss of work permits as a result of Trump’s decision to shut down a program started by President Obama.