\ 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] \ Review of Claim to U.S. Citizenship
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Review of Claim to U.S. Citizenship
Several commenters stated that while the statute and regulations provide for review of an expedited removal order of an alien claiming to be a lawful permanent resident, refugee, or asylee, there is no such provision for review of a claim to U.S. citizenship. While U.S. citizens are not subject to the inadmissibility and removal provisions of the Act and the Department makes every effort to prevent the inadvertent removal of U.S. citizens, there are approximately 35,000 false claims to U.S. citizenship mad
e every year at ports-of-entry. Congress recognized this problem in IIRIRA by adding a new ground of inadmissibility to section 212(a)(6)(C)(ii) of the Act specifically designating such aliens as inadmissible and subject to the expedited removal provisions. Existing regulations at § 235.1(b), which have been in place for many years, place the burden of establishing a claim to U.S. citizenship on the person seeking entry. Otherwise, that person is inspected as an alien. To provide an additional level of
review and safeguard against a mistaken determination, the Department will institute the same procedures contained in § 235.3(b)(5) for persons who have not been able to establish U.S. citizenship, but who maintain a claim under oath or under penalty of perjury to be U.S. citizens, which are used for persons claiming to be lawfully admitted as permanent residents, refugees, or asylees.
Several commenters stated that the regulations do not provide any criteria for the detention or release of these individuals. The provisions of § 235.3(b)(2)(iii) requiring detention of all aliens subject to the expedited removal provisions and issued a removal order also apply to persons whose claim to lawful permanent resident, refugee, asylee, or U.S. citizen status has not been verified. To clarify that detention is required for these individuals, the interim rule reiterates this requirement in § 235.
Filing of an Application for a Refugee Travel Document While Outside the United States
Several commenters remarked favorably on the proposal to revise 8 CFR part 223 to allow refugees and asylees to apply for refugee travel documents from outside the United States, after departure from the United States, under certain very limited circumstances. The Department proposed this revision with full awareness of the provision in section 208(c)(1) of the Act under which the Attorney General may allow the alien to travel abroad "with the prior consent of the Attorney General." Despite the implied la
nguage of the statute, the Department felt that an exception was warranted for those cases where the alien innocently departed in ignorance of the requirement or, although aware of the requirement, departed without applying for the document due to an urgent humanitarian need, such as the impending death of a close relative. It should be noted that the current regulations only require that an application be filed before departure, not that the applicant delay travel until after the application is approved
and the document is received. The Service has always provided the option of allowing the alien to pick up the document overseas at an American consular post.
A few commenters suggested that the decision whether to accept such applications not be left to the discretion of the Service. This change has been made. However, the regulation does not remove the general requirement that the application be filed before departure, nor does it intend that the new procedure be viewed as a routine method of obtaining the document. Although not specifically stated in the regulation, the Department intends that if it is apparent that the alien knew of the general requirement
and simply chose to ignore it (e.g., if the alien had previously been issued a refugee travel document through this "overseas procedure" and there was no emergency necessitating the more recent departure), the director may determine that favorable exercise of discretionary authority is not warranted. Accordingly, the regulation provides that the district director having jurisdiction over the overseas location, or over the inspection facility in the case of an alien at a port-of-entry, may deny the applica
tion as a matter of discretion.
A few commenters suggested that there be no limit on how long after departure the application may be filed. Others suggested that the time limit be shortened from 1 year to 6 months to coincide with the 6 month time frame in section 101(a)(13)(C) of the Act, which is the period during which a lawful permanent resident who meets certain other requirements is not considered to be an applicant for admission. Another commenter stated that the validity of a refugee travel document approved under this process s
hould not be limited to 1 year from the date of the alien's departure from the United States, so long as the application was filed within 1 year of that departure. The 1-year limitation was chosen because it is the maximum validity period for which a document would have been approved had the alien complied with the requirement of filing prior to departure. Allowing an applicant to file from outside the United States more than 1 year after departure would effectively authorize a longer validity period for
the person who failed to comply with the requirement than for one who did. This would not be appropriate. Likewise, the 6-month period during which a lawful permanent resident (who meets the other criteria in section 101(a)(13) of the Act) is not deemed to be seeking admission is not analogous to that of the stranded refugee, since the refugee is clearly deemed to be seeking admission. Additionally, 6 months might be too short a time for the alien who realizes his or her error to file the application and
for the Service to verify eligibility and approve that application. The Department feels that in those cases where it is proper to allow an exception from the requirement to file before departure, it is appropriate that the document be valid for the same length of time as for the person who complied with that requirement.
Revision of Asylum Procedures
In general, many commenters requested that specific "step-by-step" procedural instructions be placed in the regulations regarding the interview process at both the secondary inspection stage and the credible fear determination stage. Although a number of these suggestions have been adopted, others have not. While the Department appreciates both the necessity for equal and proper treatment of all cases and the advantages of standardization, it must also recognize that not all situations are identical and t
he interviewing officer must be allowed a certain amount of flexibility in conducting interviews to account for differences in individual situations.
Convention Against Torture
Many commenters urged that there be express reference in several parts of the regulation to the non-refoulement obligation under Article 3 of the Convention against Torture. This article requires a state not to "expel, return ('refouler') or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture." This article has been in effect for the United States since November 1994. Although Article 3 of the Torture Conven
tion itself is not self-executing, the Attorney General has sufficient administrative authority to ensure that the United States observes the limitations on removal required by this provision. In fact, the Service has received and considered individual requests for relief under the Torture Convention since November 1994 and has arranged for relief where appropriate. For the present, the Department intends to continue to carry out the non-refoulement provision of the Torture Convention through its existing
administrative authority rather than by promulgating regulations. The Service is, however, developing thorough guidelines to address Article 3 issues and intends to issue those guidelines soon. These guidelines generally, and the expedited removal process in particular, will be implemented in accordance with Article 3.
Prohibitions on Filing Asylum Applications
There were numerous comments on the prohibitions on the filing of asylum applications in section 208(a)(2) of the Act. Because of the importance of a decision to deny an alien the right to apply for asylum, the Department has chosen to adopt the suggestion that only asylum officers, immigration judges, and the BIA be empowered to make such determinations. The Department has also made clear that, while the alien must establish by clear and convincing evidence that he or she applied within one year of his o
r her arrival in the United States, the alien's burden of establishing that one of the exceptions in section 208(a)(2)(D) applies must only be to the "satisfaction of the Attorney General." The rule also contemplates that the asylum officer or immigration judge hearing such a case will explore the reasons for the late filing. Finally, and importantly, the Department has decided to follow the recommendation that the date of arrival used to determine the one-year period in section 208(a)(2)(B), consistent
with the effective date of that section, be no earlier than April 1, 1997. Thus, the first case to which this prohibition could apply would be one filed on April 2, 1998.
Regarding the changed circumstances exception in section 208(a)(2)(D), the Department has followed the recommendation of numerous commentators to drop the language limiting this exception, for purposes of section 208(a)(2)(B), to circumstances that arise after the one-year period. The Department has also decided to provide a better definition of this exception by indicating that the definition may include either changed conditions in the home country or changes in objective circumstances relating to the ap
plicant in the United States, including changes in applicable U.S. law, that create a reasonable possibility that the applicant may qualify for asylum. Because of inconsistency between the formulation of changed circumstances in section 208(a)(2)(D) and the formulation in section 240(c)(5)(ii) of the Act, which permits an alien to file a motion to reopen beyond the time limit normally applicable to such a motion, the Department has decided to drop the requirement that, for purposes of the prohibition in se
ction 208(a)(2)C), such exception may only be raised through a motion to reopen.
A large number of commenters requested that the Department list examples of what is meant by extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of section 208(a)(2)(D) of the Act, and several commenters suggested examples that they believed were appropriate. Accordingly, the Department has included such a list in the interim rule. It is important to bear two points in mind when reviewing the list. First, the list is not all-inclusive, and it is recognized that there are many other circumstances that might ap
ply if the applicant is able to show that but for such circumstances the application would have been filed within the first year of the alien's arrival in United States. Second, the alien still has the burden of establishing the existence of the claimed circumstance and that but for that circumstance, the application would have been filed within the year.
Some commenters requested that the Department clarify that failure to establish changed circumstances or extraordinary circumstances might bar an applicant from applying for asylum, it does not bar him or her from applying for withholding of removal. The Department agrees and the interim rule contains this clarification.
Some commenters objected to the requirement that an alien who meets the extraordinary circumstances criteria, file the application "as soon after the deadline as practicable given those circumstances," preferring instead the phrase "within a reasonable time period given those circumstances." The Department has adopted this suggestion and a similar formulation for the "changed circumstances" exception.