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Following Damning Report from Maine Immigrant Groups, Pingree Urges Homeland Security to Investigate Instances of Bias at Boston Asylum Office

Only 15.5 percent of asylum applications reviewed by the Boston Asylum Office from 2015 to 2020 were approved, well below national average of 28 percent

WASHINGTON, DC–Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) joined six of her congressional colleagues in writing to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG), urging it to open a formal review of the Boston Asylum Office operated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The letter cites a recent report, Lives in Limbo: How the Boston Asylum Office Fails Asylum Seekers, authored by the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic at the University of Maine School of Law, the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, and Ph.D. Political Science at Amherst College Basileus Zeno, which found that the Boston Asylum Office approved only 15.5 percent of the asylum applications it reviewed between 2015 and 2020, or just about half the national average of 28 percent. The report found that time constraints, excessive officer influence over cases, and instances of bias plague the Boston Asylum Office operations. In response, the lawmakers are calling on the DHS OIG to launch an investigation to ensure that asylum applicants in Massachusetts receive a fair and equitable opportunity to have their cases heard. 

“An alarming new report documents that the Boston Asylum Office’s grant rate is far below the national average, finding that it is ‘driven by a culture of suspicion toward asylum seekers and an overwhelming predisposition to refer asylum cases to immigration court,’” wrote the lawmakers. “As the authors of the report conclude, ‘the result of this disproportionately low grant rate is that people fleeing persecution in their home countries are wrongly denied asylum and the protections afforded to them by international and U.S. law.’ We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General immediately open an investigation into the Boston Asylum Office to determine whether, and if so, why its grant rate is so low, and to take appropriate steps to ensure that the rights of those seeking asylum in the United States through the Boston Asylum Office are protected and enforced.”

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

Pingree joined Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representatives Jim McGovern (MA-02), Assistant Speaker of the House Katherine Clark (MA-05), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Jake Auchincloss (MA-04) in sending the letter.

Pingree recently reintroduced her Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, legislation that reduces the current 180-day waiting period for work authorization eligibility to 30 days, allowing an asylum seeker to apply for authorization as soon as the asylum claim is filed. The bill makes no changes to law or regulation relating to the asylum process. This could have an impact on new asylum seekers in Maine—allowing them to gain work, be self-sufficient through the process of establishing roots in their new community and contribute to our economy.


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