When a person is apprehended by immigration officials at the border, that person may be placed in expedited removal proceedings, meaning that he or she can be deported without a hearing before an immigration judge. However, if the person claims to be afraid to return to his or her home country, that person is entitled to an opportunity to explain his or her fear to an asylum officer in what is known as a “credible fear interview.” The purpose of the credible fear interview is to determine whether there is a “significant possibility” that the person could be granted asylum by an immigration judge. If the person is found to have a credible fear, the person is placed in removal proceedings and given the opportunity to apply for asylum in immigration court.

Recently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new guidance on credible fear determinations. The new guidance suggests that asylum officers have been too lax in applying the significant possibility standard, finding credible fear when there is only a minimal possibility that the person will succeed on an asylum claim. Instead, the new guidance specifies that asylum officers may only find that the person possesses a credible fear when he or she demonstrates “a substantial and realistic possibility of succeeding” on an asylum claim. As the reason for the new guidance, USCIS cites a 250% increase in credible fear referrals between 2012 and 2013.

Immigration advocates argue that the credible fear process is meant to be an initial assessment of the asylum claim and worry that the change will mean that many valid asylum claims will be turned away at the border. If you have questions about how the new guidance might affect you or your family members attempting to seek asylum at the border, do not hesitate to contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Wilson Law Group.