The federal government announced charges Wednesday against an immigration lawyer prosecutors say filed more than 180 bogus asylum applications, lying about her clients’ criminal pasts and making up other details in order to try to pave the way for them to get legal status.
Andreea Dumitru faces counts of asylum fraud and making false statements on applications dating back to 2012.
The indictment, unveiled in court documents Wednesday, says Ms. Dumitru lied to shield applicants’ criminal pasts and to make up details of their supposed persecution back home — a key element for those seeking asylum.
She also forged some of her clients’ signatures on the documents, the government says.
“There are people who enter this country with valid asylum claims, waiting in line among all the frauds,” said Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez.
Asylum is a protection granted to people who’ve already made it into the U.S. It’s similar to protections for refugees, who are those applying from outside the country.
Illegal immigrants have begun to use the asylum system in recent years as a backdoor way to gain status in the U.S.
Homeland Security officials and border analysts said smuggling cartels are coaching migrants on “magic words” they can use to trigger the asylum process. They claim to have a “credible fear” of being returned to their home country.
Once they’re in the asylum process they are usually granted work permits, giving them a foothold here. The number of people filing for asylum has soared from about 76,000 in 2012 to 142,000 in 2017.