Nearly two-thirds of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children requesting asylum this year have had their initial applications approved, the House Judiciary Committee reported Friday in data that suggests those kids surging across the border who ask to stay will likely be able to gain admission to the U.S.
The numbers show both that the U.S. government generally believes the children are fleeing dangerous conditions that they cannot return to, and signals that it will be far tougher to deport most of the children.
According to the Judiciary Committee’s numbers, 65 percent of unaccompanied children’s asylum applications are approved by the initial asylum officer so far in 2014. Even those who are refused can ask for an appeal, which means the total number who end up staying, with government permission, is likely to be higher.
That figure doesn’t include the others who never apply for asylum and try to disappear into the shadows, or who spend years in the country awaiting court dates.
“President Obama’s refusal to crack down on rampant asylum fraud is one of the many reasons we are witnessing a surge of Central Americans seeking to enter the U.S. illegally at the border,” said Rep. Robert Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have sparred over the reasons why children and families from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are surging across the border right now. Mr. Obama argues they are fleeing violence and poverty, while the GOP says Mr. Obama’s lax enforcement policies have enticed them to come.
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Smugglers have told Central Americans that if they can get to the U.S. border, they will be processed and released into the interior of the country, where they can disappear into the shadows.
Republicans say if the U.S. could show that illegal immigrants will be turned back at the border or quickly deported, fewer will attempt the journey.
But gaining asylum is a legal entry into the U.S., and is likely to reinforce the smugglers’ message.