"The chief of the asylum division at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has told asylum officers that immigrants who make a "credible fear" claim, the first step in the asylum process, must have a "significant possibility" of winning an asylum case before a judge. In a Feb. 28 memo, the official, John Lafferty, said in order to meet that standard immigrants have to "demonstrate a substantial and realistic possibility of succeeding in court." The memo, which updates an officer training course lesson plan, does not substantially change the standard for how the immigration agency handles such cases. The same language was used to describe the standard to win a full hearing before an immigration judge as far back as 2008, according to the USCIS website. Lafferty wrote that the there were concerns that the standard was not always being met in recent cases. ... The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, an immigrant advocacy group that has staged several protests along the border that have included young immigrants seeking asylum, released the memo to the news media Thursday. ... David Bennion, a lawyer who works with the immigrant youth alliance, said multiple asylum cases in San Diego recently have been denied since the memo was issued internally at USCIS. He described the denials as "retaliation" for the group's advocacy activities. Carlos Spector, an El Paso, Texas, immigration lawyer who represents dozens of asylum seekers, said the memo's instructions convert asylum officers into immigration judges. "The message here is: You are now empowered to send people back," Spector said." Alicia Caldwell, E.J. Tamara, Elliot Spagat, and Juan Carlos Llorca, Associated Press, Apr. 19, 2014.