Responding to Accusations of Dishonesty from a Careless Reader

By Dan Cadman on September 13, 2016

In March 2014 I wrote a Backgrounder for the Center titled "Asylum in the United States" that described how the checks and balances in the asylum system have been dismantled. An irate reader has just responded to that Backgrounder with an email, as follows:

Your name: [redacted for privacy reasons]
Your e-mail address: [redacted]
Subject: dishonesty

Message: YOur [sic] article says "92% of Mexican asylum seekers pass the credible threat test" but you fail to mention that >90% are ultimately denied asylum and deported. How dishonest.

I don't usually respond to each and every email about my Backgrounders or blogs, good or bad — and I'm not about to start — but, on the other hand, I'm not letting this one get by.

Dear [redacted],

Where have you been for the last 30 months since this Backgrounder was published? Well, never mind, let's cut to the chase here.

First let me observe that you have misstated the statistic you cite so disapprovingly ("92% of Mexican asylum seekers pass the credible threat test"). Please note, for future reference and the sake of accuracy, that it is not a "credible threat" test, it is a credible fear test. There is no such thing as a credible threat test.

Second, look at the second bullet under "Key Findings", right at the front of the Backgrounder: the article indicates that 92 percent of asylum seekers pass the credible fear test. There is no mention of Mexicans, or of any other nationality, because the statistic relates to all asylum seekers without regard to citizenship. I don't know how you could possibly have misconstrued that signal difference, but don't pin it on me because you're a sloppy reader (if indeed you really read the Backgrounder at all) and choose to think that the statistic related solely to Mexicans.

Third, I would point out that the 92 percent statistic you dispute didn't originate with me, as I also clearly stated. It was derived by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, based on a careful examination of data received from the agency that conducts those credible fear tests: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. No dishonesty there that I can discern.

Fourth, I'm not sure where you got your own statistical data that "more than 90% of Mexican asylum seekers are ultimately denied and deported." The first part might or might not be true — but the second part of the statement is indisputably wrong. But even assuming just for the moment it's true that more than 90 percent of Mexican asylum applicants are denied, then you haven't disproved my argument; to the contrary. The credible fear test process was developed and embedded into statute by lawmakers who thought they were creating a mechanism for separating the wheat from the chaff where asylum is concerned. The idea was that by winnowing out the frivolous claims via such a credible fear test, asylum officers and judges would then be able to spend more quality time hearing and adjudicating the merit-worthy cases. I should think even the 25-watt bulbs out there would recognize that there's a huge problem if 92 percent of cases are found at the first step to have a credible fear of persecution, only to have immigration judges say otherwise at the second step and order almost all of those people deported. Isn't that overwhelming proof of a system where the checks and balances have, in fact, collapsed?

Fifth and final, let's talk for a moment about the second part of your statement that ">90% are ultimately denied asylum and deported." I beg to differ. Almost no asylum applicant these days, no matter how frivolous the claim appears, is placed into immigration detention. Thus, when his or her case goes to immigration court, even if the judge denies the asylum claim and orders removal, the individual isn't even there to immediately taken into custody. (In fact, many of the orders are made in absentia because the alien has long since fled, not really caring what the outcome is because he or she achieved what he or she wanted, which was a free pass into the interior.)

Thus it is careless in the extreme to conflate an order of deportation with actual deportation, which is the physical removal of the alien to his or her country of nationality. It's the difference between being sentenced to prison and actually going to prison. If you're a fugitive, then you're not in prison, no matter what the judge sentenced. The same is true for orders of removal vs. actual, physical removal. The unfortunately reality is that there are at present nearly a million aliens on the streets of the United States who have outstanding orders of removal that haven't been executed, the vast majority of them because the aliens have absconded from proceedings. So when you say that greater than 90 percent have been deported after being denied asylum, I say "How dishonest."

Best wishes, Cadman.