FOIA Disclosures on USCIS Asylum Terminations
Asylum Termination FOIA Takeaways
Asylees need and merit protection. That is why asylee status is supposed to be “indefinite,” meaning it does not have an end date.
However, it is possible for the U.S. government to terminate asylum status. For asylees who were granted asylum affirmatively, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, Asylum Office has the authority to issue a Notice of Intent to Terminate asylum status, or NOIT. Following the issuance of a NOIT, the asylum office schedules an interview with the asylee, and makes a determination whether the asylee should continue to hold their status, or whether the asylum status should be terminated, and the former asylee placed into removal proceedings. Only an immigration judge can terminate asylee status that has been granted by the court, so the USCIS statistics only reflect termination proceedings before the USCIS asylum offices, not those before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR.
Concerned about the Trump administration’s remarks targeting asylum seekers and a potential increase in asylum terminations, on Oct. 3, 2019, CLINIC submitted a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request to USCIS seeking information about the numbers of NOITs issued by each asylum office, how many asylum grants were terminated and how many left in place, and the grounds for the asylum offices issuing NOITs.
Here are some key takeaways from the data:
- The overall number of NOITs issued by the asylum offices was relatively low—a total of 892 over a the 12-year period from 2009-2020
- Of those issued NOITs, the Asylum Office issued Notices to Appear in immigration court, following termination, in 655 cases
- Of those issued NOITs, the Asylum Offices issued Notices of Continuation of Status, meaning the asylees retained their asylee status, in 231 cases
- “Fraud in the application” was far and away the number one reason for termination, accounting for 562 terminations out of 717 during this period. It is worth noting, however, that 106 of these terminations occurred in the New York Asylum Office, most likely as a result of a significant criminal investigation into asylum fraud by several attorneys.
- By contrast, “reavailment” only accounted for 14 terminations, a number worth noting as advocates must often counsel asylee clients about the risk of securing a passport from their country of feared harm, or of returning to visit a sick family member
- Other grounds for termination included: changed country conditions; Terrorist Grounds of Inadmissibility; committing a particularly serious crime; Grounds of Denial Act; and “null”
- The offices with the highest number of NOITs issued were the NY Asylum Office with 211, followed closely by the Arlington, VA Asylum Office with 203
- In addition to principal asylees who had their status terminated, 380 dependents lost their asylee status.