STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
“National Security: Threats at Our Borders”
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
March 23, 2016
By Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) appreciates the opportunity to submit its views on the United States asylum system for the record. As the national organization founded by Lutheran congregations to serve uprooted people, LIRS is committed to helping those who have been forced to flee their homes to access the protections to which they are legally entitled. Following God’s call in scripture to uphold justice for the sojourner, LIRS advocates to ensure newcomers in the United States are treated fairly and humanely. While it is the right of every nation to control its borders, LIRS cautions that any new considerations for border enforcement must ensure the rights of all asylum-seekers to seek protection through a robust asylum system.
“Our asylum laws act as a critical lifeline for vulnerable migrants who seek safety and a new life here in the United States,” LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke stated. “Restricting our asylum system would not only fail to honor the courage of asylum seekers, but also would betray our strong history as a nation of welcome.”
We must continue to uphold our proud history of providing refuge to the sojourner, especially those who are seeking safety and protection at our borders as their only hope for survival. The current asylum system includes numerous safeguards and procedures to ensure its integrity and the safety of the American people. No individual may be granted asylum until they have been interviewed in person or attended an adversarial court hearing, been cleared by a rigorous interagency vetting and biometric screening, and have proven fear of persecution.
Much like the robust refugee screening progress, the biometric and biographic vetting process for those seeking asylum in the United States is mandatory and rigorous. The biometric checks include cross checking biometric data with the biometric and watchlist systems of multiple United States agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense, and the National Counterterrorism Center. These checks confirm identity, determine previous interactions with United States government officials, detect imposters, and cross reference domestic and international terrorist databases. Meanwhile, biographic information is checked by United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FBI and the Department of State. These checks complement the biometric analysis by cross referencing biographical data against multiple federal, state, local, and foreign sources. In addition, asylum officers may refer particular applications to the DHS office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) or ICE for criminal investigation and prosecution.
Our nation has a long and proud history of living out the moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable newcomers and grant the freedoms we hold as inalienable rights. LIRS supports the Administration’s goals of protecting our country from those who wish to do us harm. We are also proud of our nation’s reputation as a protector of liberty and provider of justice. As people of faith, we urge Members of this Committee to keep our hearts and doors open to those in need of protection.
If you have any questions about this statement, please contact Joanne Kelsey, LIRS Assistant Director for Advocacy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.626.7939.