For as long as it has existed, this country has been a safe haven for those seeking relief from persecution in their home countries - many of which have settled in South Carolina. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services, one way for someone to apply for asylum is to claim a "credible fear" of persecution or torture. In 2013 alone, the USCIS received over 36,000 "credible fear" claims. Surprisingly, that number was more than those received between 2007 and 2011 combined.
In late February, the USCIS circulated a memorandum addressing the standard an asylum officer is to use in making a decision during the first step of the asylum process. Apparently, there was concern that officers were not applying the appropriate standard when deciding whether a "credible fear" claim may be successful prior to sending it to a judge.
According to the memo, the standard requires that the applicant have a "significant possibility" of success before the judge. This means that the person seeking asylum needs to demonstrate to the asylum officer a "substantial and realistic possibility" of a positive outcome in their case. The worry, apparently, was that officers were only considering whether applicants were able to show a possibility -- not necessarily a likelihood -- of success prior to sending a case on to a judge.
USCIS statistics appear to backup this belief, showing that a large majority of such "credible fear" claims made over the previous two years made their way to an immigration judge for an ultimate determination. Interestingly, the USCIS notes that the restated standard is not actually new standard - the specific language instructing officers can be traced back to at least 2008.
Since the reissuance is still relatively new, it may be tough to tell how it has and will affect such determinations here in South Carolina. However, it is clear that with the spotlight shining brightly on the topic, those applying for asylum will want to be fully prepared to present the strongest case possible to avoid an order of removal and succeed in their bid to remain in the United States.
Source: ABC News, "Homeland Security Reissues Immigrant Asylum Rules," Alicia A. Caldwell, April 18, 2014