Judiciary Chairman: America’s Asylum System Being ‘Abused’

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) talks with Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on Jan. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said congressional Republicans plan to combat foreign “abuse” of the U.S. asylum system.

“Asylum is a very important principle that America uses to allow people to escape from torture and other types of mistreatment in our countries; however, it is abused and you can tell that’s the case when people come here and they’re fine until they are told they are not going to be able to stay and they say, ‘I want asylum.’ Well, in many of those instances we’re not sure asylum is an appropriate measure,” Goodlatte said during a recent Federalist Society event focused on the House Judiciary Committee agenda at the National Press Club.

“They are then released into the interior of the country, and guess what? They never come back to assert their asylum claim so that needs to be reformed,” he added.

He noted House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), also a member of the Judiciary committee, has reform legislation.

Goodlatte said new Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly is focused on changing the Obama administration’s “catch and release” approach toward undocumented immigrants.

“Catch and release” refers to federal authorities releasing migrants who are caught illegally crossing into the U.S. instead of holding them until their immigration court hearing. In many cases, undocumented immigrants who are caught and released do not appear for their hearings.

“Rep. John Carter from Texas has legislation to address the catch and release problem, and some of that maybe addressed by changed policy,” Goodlatte said.

He also said Congress would eventually have to reform some of the U.S. legal immigration programs, such as the EB-5 immigrant investor program.

According to Goodlatte, the U.S. issues more than a million green cards per year, but only 12 percent of those are related to education and skills needed in the country. He said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has sponsored legislation that deals with high-skilled foreign workers.

“Of that 12 percent, 7 percent are family members – only 5 percent of a million-plus green cards go on that basis,” he said. “We need to shift that and he has legislation that helps us do that.”

Goodlatte emphasized that Republicans in Congress have to wait and see what direction President Trump goes on immigration reform before deciding the best way forward.

“I think he intends to do a lot, but exactly what he does will set the tone for what we can do in the Congress to address all of these areas including the people who are not lawfully here right now. So I think the president has shown he is going to be very active in this area and we will follow that.”

Goodlatte defended his committee staffers who worked with the Trump administration on the executive order that pauses refugee programs and restricts travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. It has been suspended by the courts.

“It’s commonplace for Republican and Democratic staff to lend their expertise to presidential transition teams,” he said. “In fact, it’s so commonplace that the Ethics Committee proactively issues guidance every presidential election cycle blessing this activity.”

Following the event, PJM asked Goodlatte if he agreed with Trump’s decision to ask FBI Director James Comey to continue his term in the position. The chairman declined to comment.

“I really can’t take any questions,” he said.