Posted on May 3, 2005

Bill Shifts Burden to Asylum-Seekers

Darryl Fears, Washington Post, May 1


Under the proposed Real ID Act, which is being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee, asylum-seekers will have an even more difficult time proving their cases, and the number of immigrants seeking asylum would likely continue to plummet, the advocates say.

The legislation would place a heavier burden on applicants to prove claims they were persecuted at home. They would be expected to make persuasive cases of mistreatment, preferably with documented evidence, something that people on the run rarely have. Immigration judges who do not believe the immigrants’ claims could order them deported even before their appeals run out, and federal courts would no longer have recourse to step in.


To those who believe in tighter restrictions on legal immigration, however, the asylum process is yet another way for terrorists or criminals to gain entry to the United States. They point to the cases of Mir Aimal Kansi and Ramzi Yousef, who committed terrorist attacks on U.S. soil after exploiting the asylum process.

Kansi entered the U.S. illegally, then applied for asylum in 1992, was allowed to stay under a general immigration amnesty and was granted a work visa. On Jan. 25, 1993, he attacked CIA employees waiting in traffic outside the Langley headquarters, killing two and wounding three. He was apprehended abroad in 1997, convicted, and executed in 2002.

Ramzi Yousef asked for asylum and was released pending a hearing. In the meantime, he helped plot and carry out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000. He was captured, convicted and imprisoned.

“Is there any limit to how many fake asylum applicants should be let in in order to keep one legitimate applicant from being deported?” asked Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “In order not to send this person back, do you have to say yes to everybody?”


Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, a conservative group that advocates stricter immigration laws, said the Real ID requirements are not excessive.

“Congress is saying . . . the burden of proof is on you,” Jenks said. “You need to prove to the court that you need protection. . .

“If you say so and so sent you a letter, then where’s the letter? If the person says, ‘I left it at home, I can’t get it,’ the judge might say, ‘Okay, fine, describe it to me.’ If the defendant doesn’t produce it where it’s reasonable, then that figures into their decision.”