\ fr \ Federal Register Publications (CIS, ICE, CBP) \ Federal Register Publications (Legacy INS) - 1997 \ FEDERAL REGISTER INTERIM REGULATIONS - 1997 \ Inspection and Expedited Removal of Aliens; Detention and Removal of Aliens; Conduct of Removal Proceedings; Asylum Procedures [62 FR 10312] [FR 10-97] \ "Asylum-Only" Hearings
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The Department noted a conflict in the proposed rule between the provisions of § 208.2(b)(1)(i)(C) and § 252.2(b) regarding crewmembers who are granted landing permits prior to April 1, 1997, and subsequently become deportable. The former provision would place such alien in "asylum-only" proceedings before the immigration judge, while the latter would place him or her in regular removal proceedings under section 240 of the Act. The interim rule corrects this conflict by specifying that the asylum-only pro
cess applies to those crewmembers granted landing privileges on or after April 1, 1997. Also, § 208.2(b)(2) has been expanded to explain the consequences of failure to appear for an asylum-only hearing and to set forth conditions and limitations on reopening such proceedings.
Discovery and FOIA Issues
Some commenters expressed concern about the statement in 8 CFR 208.12 that "[n]othing in this part shall be construed to entitle the applicant to conduct discovery directed towards the records, officers, agents, or employees of the Service, the Department of Justice or the Department of States." Specifically, they feared that the provision would preclude someone from seeking, or excuse the Service from providing, information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This fear is totally groundless. FO
IA provisions are covered under separate statutory and regulatory bases. The Service is guided by 5 U.S.C. 522 and 8 CFR 103 with regard to FOIA matters, neither of which are in any way affected by this rulemaking.
Persecution for Illegal Departure or Applying for Asylum
Several commenters objected to the proposed elimination of § 208.13(b)(2)(ii) and § 208.16(b)(4), which require asylum officers and immigration judges to give "due consideration" to evidence that the government of the applicant's country of nationality or last habitual residence persecutes its nationals or residents if they leave the country without authorization or seek asylum in another country. These commenters interpreted this change to mean that the Department does not wish to consider seriously such
evidence or to grant asylum or withholding to persons who are at risk of punishment for illegal departure from their countries or for applying for asylum abroad. This is not the case. The Department and the United States Government continue to deplore and oppose certain countries' practice of severely punishing their citizens for illegal departure or for applying for asylum in another country. The Department also acknowledges that persons who face severe punishment for such acts may continue to qualify f
or asylum or withholding of removal. However, the regulation at issue did not clearly implement this policy. First, it requires only that asylum officers and immigration judges give "due consideration" to evidence of such practices; this is a vague and indefinite standard. Second, it obliges adjudicators to consider evidence of whether a country "persecutes" its nationals for such actions. Such language begs the very question that an adjudicator must answer in deciding such a case: Does the alleged puni
shment amount to persecution? It is well-established that not all punishment for illegal departure constitutes persecution.
Sovich v. Esperdy
, 319 F. 2d 21 (2d Cir. 1963);
Matter of Chumpitazi
, 16 I&N Dec. 629 (BIA 1978). However, in some cases, it may. Such a question must be resolved on a case-by-case basis. Thus, rather than continue to have an ambiguous regulation on this issue, the Department believes its adjudicators should apply the same standards to these cases as they would to any other case in which the applicant claims a fear that derives from governmental prosecution. This is best accomplished by removing the provisions in question from the regulations.
Exception to the Prohibition on Withholding of Deportation in Certain Cases
Several commenters objected to the proposed rule's limitation in § 208.16(c)(3) on those aliens who may be eligible for relief under section 243(h)(3) of the Act, as amended by Pub. L. 104-132. In particular, these commenters object to the notion that the United States may summarily preclude from eligibility for withholding of deportation aliens convicted of a particularly serious crime, including an aggravated felony, without individually considering their cases. However, it is well established in U.S. l
aw that aliens who have been convicted of an aggravated felony are mandatorily barred from obtaining withholding of deportation.
Kofa v. INS
, 60 F. 3d 1084, 1090 (4th Cir. 1995)(en banc). In the proposed regulation implementing section 243(h)(3) of the Act, the Department decided, consistent with the revisions made to the withholding of deportation statute by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, to make relief under this section available only to those persons convicted of an aggravated felony who receive an aggregate sentence of imprisonment of less than 5 years. This proposal is almost entirely consistent
with a recent precedent decision issued by the BIA on this issue.
Matter of Q-T-M-T-
, Int. Dec. 3300 (BIA 1996). Thus, the Department intends to retain the basic approach in the proposed regulation. We have only added a sentence providing that an alien convicted of an aggravated felony shall be presumed to have been convicted of a particularly serious crime. This minor change renders the regulation fully consistent with the Board's decision in
Matter of Q-T-M-T-
Admission of the Spouse and Children of an Asylee
The proposed rule reserved § 208.19 for regulations pertaining to the admission of the spouse and children of an asylee. This matter was the subject of a separate proposed rule published July 9, 1996, see 61 FR 35,984 (1996) and the Department had intended to incorporate the revised regulations into this interim rule. However, because analysis of the comments to that earlier proposed rule has not been completed, the Department will instead redesignate the existing regulations at § 208.21 as § 208.19. The
revised regulations on the admission of the spouse and children of an asylee will be incorporated into the final regulations, which will be published after the expiration of the comment period for this interim rule.
Credible Fear Standard
Several commenters urged that we adopt regulatory language emphasizing that the credible fear standard is a low one and that cases of certain types should necessarily meet that standard. Since the statute expressly defines the term "credible fear of persecution," we have chosen not to provide in the rule a further refinement of this definition. However, both INS and EOIR will give extensive training to their officials on the purpose of the credible fear standard and how it is to be applied to particular c
ases. The Department believes that such training will ensure that the standard is implemented in a way which will encourage flexibility and a broad application of the statutory standard.
Employment Authorization for Asylum Applicants
Almost all who chose to comment on the Department's position regarding work authorization for asylum applicants were pleased with the decision to continue to allow the applicant to apply for an employment authorization document once the asylum application has been pending for 150 days. One commenter requested that the 150-day period be abolished, but that suggestion was not deemed viable, especially in light of the new statutorily-mandated 6-month minimum time before granting such authorization contained i
n section 208(d)(2) of the Act.
The Department has also modified the regulations relating to employment authorization at §§ 208.7(a) and 274a.12(a)(8) to ensure that applicants who appear to an asylum officer to be eligible for asylum but have not yet received a grant of asylum are able to obtain employment authorization. Section 208(d)(5)(A)(i) of the Act obliges the Service, prior to granting asylum, to check the identity of the applicant "against all appropriate records or databases maintained by the Attorney General and by the Secre
tary of State. . . ." Such databases include, among others, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) fingerprint database. At present, the Service initiates such a fingerprint check at the time it grants asylum; if the check turns up information that undercuts that decision, asylum is later revoked. The Service's experience is that the FBI's fingerprint checks often take a significant period of time to complete. The new statutory requirement at section 208(d)(5)(A)(i) of the Act thus means that afte
r April 1, 1997, an alien who would otherwise appear to be eligible for asylum may have to wait for a long period of time before he or she can be granted asylum or employment authorization. (A similar problem may arise in the case of an alien who is determined to be a refugee under the new language in section 101(a)(42) of the Act but is precluded from being granted asylum because of the cap in section 207(a)(5) of the Act.) Such a result is contrary to one of the chief purposes of the asylum reforms brou
ght about by the regulatory changes of January 1995: to ensure that bona fide asylees are eligible to obtain employment authorization as quickly as possible. Thus, consistent with the authority in section 208(d)(2) of the Act, the Department has decided to make employment authorization available to asylum applicants who are recommended for a grant of asylum but have not yet received such grant of asylum or withholding. An alien may apply for employment authorization under these provisions as soon as he or
she receives notice of the grant recommendation.
Credible Fear Determinations and Claims of Asylum or Fear of Persecution by Alien Subject to Expedited Removal
Under the new section 235(b)(1)(A)(ii) of the Act, an alien subject to expedited removal who indicates an intention to apply for asylum or who expresses a fear of persecution will be referred to an asylum officer to determine if the alien has a credible fear of persecution. Many commenters stated that the regulation in § 235.3 was not sufficiently detailed in delineating the following procedures for recognizing and referring arriving aliens who may be genuine refugees fleeing persecution: disclosures to a
rriving aliens; conditions of secondary inspection; use of interpreters; representation during secondary inspection; written record of proceeding; time and place of credible fear interview; detention pending a determination of credible fear; and detention following a determination of credible fear. We will address these concerns individually.
Disclosures to Arriving Aliens
Many commenters expressed the opinion that all arriving aliens should be provided with information concerning the credible fear interview. This contention is based on the language of the statute in section 235(b)(1)(B)(iv) that states: "The Attorney General shall provide information concerning the asylum interview described in this subparagraph to aliens who may be eligible. . . ." The commenters' position is that this requirement is not limited only to aliens who "are" eligible, but that all aliens who a
re suspected of qualifying for expedited removal "may" be eligible, and that the information should be given before the secondary inspection pre-screening process.
To understand the Service position on this issue, one must understand the general inspection process. All persons entering the United States at ports-of-entry undergo primary inspection. U.S. citizens are exempt from the inspection process, but must nevertheless undergo an examination to determine entitlement to exemption from inspection. In FY 96, the Service conducted more than 475 million primary inspections. During the primary inspection stage, the immigration officer literally has only a few second
s to examine documents, run basic lookout queries, and ask pertinent questions to determine admissibility and issue relevant entry documents. At most land border ports-of-entry, primary inspection duties are shared with U.S. Customs inspectors, who are cross-designated to perform primary immigration inspections. If there appear to be discrepancies in documents presented or answers given, or if there are any other problems, questions, or suspicions that cannot be resolved within the exceedingly brief peri
od allowed for primary inspection, the person must be referred to a secondary inspection procedure, where a more thorough inquiry may be conducted. In addition, aliens are often referred to secondary inspection for routine matters, such as processing immigration documents and responding to inquiries. While millions of aliens (almost 10 million in FY 96) are referred to secondary inspection each year for many reasons, approximately 90 percent of these aliens are ultimately admitted to the United States in
a very short period of time once they have been interviewed and have established their admissibility.
The secondary officer often does not know if an alien is likely to be removed under the expedited removal process until he or she has questioned the alien. Congress, in drafting the expedited removal provisions, chose to include both section 212(a)(6)(C) and 212(a)(7) of the Act as the applicable grounds of inadmissibility. The common perception is that most expedited removal cases will involve obvious fraudulent documents, or aliens arriving with no documents at all. This is not necessarily the type of
case that most frequently falls within the provisions of sections 212(a)(6)(C) and (7) of the Act. Section 212(a)(6)(C) of the Act includes "any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this Act . . . ," as well as aliens who falsely represent themselves to be citizens of the United States. In addition to the presentation of f
raudulent documents, the falsity of which may not be verified until a thorough examination has been conducted, the fraud and misrepresentation referenced in this section may include falsehoods told by the alien concerning his or her admission or other misrepresentations told to Government officials now or in the past.
Section 212(a)(7) of the Act, in addition to covering a lack of valid documents (including expired or incorrect visas or passports), also encompasses the alien "who is not in possession of a valid unexpired immigrant visa." Under immigration law, aliens who cannot establish entitlement to one of the nonimmigrant categories contained in the Act are presumed to be immigrants, and, if not in possession of a valid immigrant visa, are inadmissible under section 212(a)(7) of the Act. The majority of the aliens
currently found inadmissible to the United States fall into this category and will now be subject to expedited removal. Again, inadmissibility under this ground often cannot be determined until the secondary inspector has thoroughly questioned the alien.
To fully advise, prior to any secondary questioning, nearly all aliens referred to secondary inspection of the expedited removal procedures and of the possibility of requesting asylum would needlessly delay the millions of aliens who are ultimately found admissible after secondary questioning. For almost all of these people, asylum, fear of persecution, or fear of return is not an issue.
The Service has very carefully considered how best to ensure that bona fide asylum claimants are given every opportunity to assert their claim, while at the same time not unnecessarily burdening the inspections process or encouraging spurious asylum claims. Service procedures require that all expedited removal cases will be documented by creation of an official Service file, to include a complete sworn statement taken from the alien recording all the facts of the case and the reasons for a finding of inadm
issibility. This sworn statement will be taken on a new Form I-867AB, Record of Sworn Statement in Proceedings under Section 235(b)(1) of the Act. The form will be used in every case where it is determined that an alien is subject to the expedited removal process, and contains a statement of rights, purpose, and consequences of the process. Among other things, it clearly advises the alien that this may be the only opportunity to present information concerning any fears or concerns about being removed fro
m the United States, and that any information concerning that fear will be heard confidentially by another officer. The final page of the form contains a standard question asking if the alien has any fear or concern of being removed or of being sent home. If, during the course of the sworn statement, or at any time in the process, the alien indicates a fear or concern of being removed, he or she will be given a more detailed written explanation of the credible fear interview process prior to being placed
in detention pending the credible fear interview. The
Inspector's Field Manual
will contain detailed instructions and guidance to officers to assist them in recognizing potential asylum claims, and this topic will also be covered in officer training. Every expedited removal case also undergoes supervisory review before the alien is removed from the United States. The Service is confident that these safeguards will adequately protect potential asylum claimants. To ensure that these procedures are followed in every expedited removal case, language has been added to § 235.3(b)(4) out
lining the procedures.