Immigration Law

Border Patrol Now Doing 'Credible Fear' Screenings

Molly O'Toole, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 19, 2019

"Border Patrol agents are beginning to screen migrant families for “credible fear” instead of highly trained asylum officers who are charged with determining whether applicants qualify for U.S. protection, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

The first Border Patrol agents arrived last week to start training at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, the nation’s largest immigrant family detention center, according to lawyers working there and several employees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

... Agents at Dilley are not wearing the Border Patrol’s well-known olive-green uniforms, and are identifying themselves to migrant families and children as asylum officers, said Shay Fluharty, an attorney with the Dilley Pro Bono Project, who has been in interviews conducted by the agents.

“It’s creating significant strain for our clients — not just because they’re unprepared and untrained,” Fluharty told The Times. “We understand that the intention is to significantly limit asylum officers who are conducting these interviews and have them be primarily conducted by Border Patrol.”

... Fluharty said she and her colleagues have witnessed a range of issues. The handful of Border Patrol agents deployed to Dilley are all male, effectively preventing clients who’ve suffered from severe sexual or gender-based violence from requesting a female asylum officer. Some agents are conducting interviews over the phone — a first at Dilley, where all screenings had previously been in-person — and with children as young as 6 years old. Other screenings are lasting far longer than normal, more than six hours. And agents are consistently asking irrelevant questions, while leaving out the most critical ones, she said.

“It’s most difficult for families who have to share really traumatic experiences under really stressful circumstances,” she said, “And now with someone without the appropriate knowledge or training.”"