DHS Debunks Fox News-Created Asylum Controversy

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Fox News LogoThe Department of Homeland Security (DHS) debunked the Fox News claim that Mexicans are taking advantage of a "loophole" in asking for asylum at the border to gain entry into the United States. DHS reportedly called Fox's reporting "overstated" and said the increase in asylum requests at Southwestern border crossings have been "modest."

On August 12, Fox News repeatedly promoted the flawed narrative that immigrants at Southwestern border crossings were using a "loophole" to enter and stay in the United States illegally by saying key phrases, namely that they have a "credible fear" of the drug cartels. Fox News' reporting throughout the day and week accused Mexicans of gaming the immigration system this way, even though petitioning for asylum based on "credible fear" of persecution is a legitimate and long-standing policy in immigration law.

But Fox continued to advance the myth that "hundreds of illegal aliens are taking advantage of a loophole to cross the border and get asylum here in the U.S.," even using anti-immigrant nativists to add that it was an "orchestrated" scam.

In an August 17 article, however, the Associated Press reported that a DHS report on asylum numbers showed that Fox News' reporting was "overstated":

Requests for asylum in the United States along the border with Mexico have more than doubled over the last three years as immigrants seeking legal entry into the country claim a fear of persecution back home, according to a federal government report.

The so-called credible fear claims reached 14,610 by the end of June, with three months left in the fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security reported. For the entire 2011 fiscal year, there were 6,824 such claims. The department's report notes, however, that those numbers are a tiny portion of the millions of travelers who legally enter the country each year.

[...]

The data was released on Friday, in part, to dispute claims first reported by Fox News that large numbers of Mexican citizens had been showing up at San Diego ports of entry recently to seek asylum, citing the drug violence in their country. Homeland Security Department officials said the news reports had been overstated and called the increase in asylum requests at those ports "modest."

Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, the agency said, an average of 30 people per day have arrived at San Diego ports seeking asylum, out of about 170,000 travelers who cross the border there legally each day.

The AP went on to report that DHS "officials say there has been no marked increase in the numbers of such asylum requests from Mexican citizens," and included DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard saying that border activity is "cyclical in nature" and that claims "of credible fear along the Southwest border vary month to month and year to year."

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