In 1993, “60 Minutes” did a story on an increasingly popular asylum scam in which incoming migrants would destroy their travel documents, claim political persecution at home and apply for asylum. They would receive work documents and then disappear into the growing population of undocumented migrants.

Faced with such rising asylum claims, the Clinton administration adopted new asylum guidelines in 1995, including the new requirement of a 180-day waiting period before work authorization.

Within the first year, asylum applications dropped 57 percent, a “dramatic success,” Doris Meissner, then commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, told The Washington Post in 1996.

The story continued: ” ‘For many years our nation’s asylum system was out of control and fraught with abuse,’ she told a news conference. The Immigration and Naturalization Service ‘has fixed a broken system through asylum reforms,’ notably by ending the virtually automatic issuance to asylum seekers of work authorizations, which had become a ‘magnet’ for spurious applications, Meissner said.”

With that drop, the proportion of asylum claims that were found valid rose from less than 20 percent to slightly over 33 percent. In recent years, however, the validity rate has begun trending down again.

Although The New York Times (“Immigrants may be fed false stories to bolster asylum pleas,” July 11, 2011) and other news outlets have done stories on asylum fraud, Maine newspapers aren’t interested in this subject. We’re given only stories that pull our heartstrings. Some of the stories are true, but many likely aren’t.

Julie Tosswill


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