Asylum:

Uniform Application of Standards Uncertain--Few Denied Applicants Deported

GGD-87-33BR: Published: Jan 9, 1987. Publicly Released: Jan 21, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Justice and the Department of State practices and procedures in judging applications for asylum in the United States, specifically from Central America.

GAO noted that the asylum application approval rates for the four countries it reviewed ranged from 2 and 7 percent for El Salvador and Nicaragua to 49 and 66 percent for Poland and Iran. GAO found that: (1) it could not determine whether the difference in approval rates reflected a bias in the application of asylum standards because the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) did not document the reasons why it approved or denied applications; (2) INS district directors and Justice immigration judges, in ruling on asylum applications, assessed the credibility of the evidence the applicants presented, but, there were no uniform standards for evidence needed to prove that an applicant was eligible for asylum; (3) although Justice regulations required immigration judges to provide an oral or written record of the evidence they used in granting or denying asylum, INS district directors and State officials did not have to explain their decisions; (4) INS deported about 2 percent of the denied aliens, 13 percent remained in the United States either awaiting hearings or under other immigration provisions, a negligible percent left voluntarily, and 80 percent had uncertain immigration status because INS had not started deportation proceedings; and (5) INS was unable to locate and routinely deport denied applicants.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice sent each INS field office a copy of the GAO report and notified them of the need to follow this recommendation. In addition, INS created an asylum policy and review units whose role, among other matters, is to compile information relevant to asylum decisions and improve the overall consistency and uniformity in asylum eligibility rulings.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct that the Commissioner, INS, in order to better monitor, assess, and manage the asylum process, document for each asylum decision why the facts that form the basis of the asylum request have been determined to be either sufficient or insufficient for asylum.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice stated that it is unlikely that INS will be able to track the status of denied asylum applicants. Reasons given by INS are the: (1) decentralized nature of the asylum adjudication process; (2) resource requirements for recordkeeping; and (3) ease with which the aliens move within the U.S., as well as depart from the country.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct that the Commissioner, INS, in order to better monitor, assess, and manage the asylum process, collect, summarize, and review data on the status of denied asylum applicants.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, Justice transmitted the GAO report to its field offices with the instructions that denied asylum applicants should be issued an order to show cause why they should not be deported. In addition, an increase in the number of immigration judges should be able to cope with the asylum work load.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct that the Commissioner, INS, in order to better monitor, assess, and manage the asylum process, take action to place denied applicants in deportation proceedings where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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