Fox Falsehood: Domestic Violence Survivors Who Seek Asylum Will Get “Instant U.S. Citizenship”

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that an immigration ruling allowing a victim of domestic violence in Guatemala to pursue an asylum claim in the U.S. would allow Guatemalans “to get instant U.S. citizenship as well as our benefits” while an on-screen graphic read “Opening the Border.” In fact, an immigration judge must still review the request for asylum in this specific case, and even if immigrants are granted asylum, they face a years-long path to gaining citizenship.

Fox Host Claims Decision Will Allow Guatemalans “To Get Instant U.S. Citizenship”

SF Chronicle: Board Of Immigration AppealsSays Inability To Escape Domestic Violence Is Legitimate Reason To Seek Asylum. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the decision comes from the Department of Justice's Board of Immigration Appeals, which is responsible for overseeing the DOJ's immigration courts system. The Chronicle described the brutal conditions the woman at the center of the case would face if forced to return home, noting the board's ruling that an inability to escape violence at home or receive help from local law enforcement “can be evidence of persecution that is grounds for asylum.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 8/26/14]

Fox's Kilmeade: Decision Creates “Huge Incentive For Guatemalans To Cross The Border And Get Instant U.S. Citizenship And Benefits.” On the August 27 edition of Fox & Friends, an on-air graphic framed the decision as “Opening the Border,” and co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that prospective immigrants may dishonestly “claim to be victims of domestic violence” and claimed that this created “a huge incentive for Guatemalans to cross the border to get instant U.S. citizenship as well as our benefits. Nice immigration reform.”

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/27/14]

But Ruling Is No Guarantee Applicants Will Actually Get Asylum

Board Ruled Violence Survivor Could Apply, But A Judge Must Still Review Strength Of Her Case For Asylum. As the Chronicle reported, the court ordered an immigration judge to scrutinize the case to “determine whether the woman would face renewed persecution if deported to Guatemala” before ruling on her eligibility for asylum. [San Francisco Chronicle, 8/26/14]

American Immigration Council: Getting An Asylum Case Heard Can Take Years. The American Immigration Council's Immigration Policy Center noted that immigration court backlogs can delay steps of the asylum application process for years in some areas:

These problems are compounded by lack of access to counsel, and a myriad of other issues relating to limited resources in immigration courts. For example, advocates report long waiting periods for hearings. Merits hearings for non-detained asylum seekers are often scheduled years away, exacerbating family separations and/or precarious situations for families remaining in the home countries. Attorneys in El Paso report master calendar hearings scheduled 1-2 years away and merits hearings 1-2 years after that. An attorney with a non-profit organization in Chicago that has clients whose asylum cases started at the border reported that an immigration judge in Chicago has a 4½ year backlog. [American Immigration Council, Immigration Policy Center, 5/21/14]

NBC News: Asylum Seekers Face A High Burden Of Proof. As NBC News reported, only about 29 percent of asylum applications succeed:

To win asylum, candidates must prove their case -- through interviews with immigration officials or by appearing before an immigration judge -- or be returned to their country of origin. The burden of proof is high: 86,053 applicants sought asylum in the U.S. in 2012, but only 24,969 -- about 29 percent -- received it, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. [, 4/17/13]

For Minority Of Applicants Who Gain Asylum, Applying For Citizenship Takes Years

NBC News: Those Granted Asylum Must Wait Minimum Of Five Years Before Applying For Citizenship. According to NBC News, those granted asylum still have to apply for permanent legal residency, and those who succeed must then wait five years before they're eligible to apply for citizenship and are given no special preference in that process:

Asylum is just the first step on a long road to citizenship. “Asylees” are authorized to work immediately and can apply for a green card granting permanent residence after one year. But they must hold the green card for five years before they can apply for citizenship. And they are not given preference in their application for citizenship, according to the USCIS. [, 4/17/13]