Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Wikicommons via U.S. Congress

As part of their piecemeal approach to drafting a 2013 immigration reform bill, House Republicans have set their sights on closing what they believe is a loophole that has led to an increase in the number of foreigners -- mostly Mexicans -- seeking asylum at U.S. ports of entry through claims of “credible fear.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., on Wednesday sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressing concern over the “disturbing statistics” and the Obama administration's alleged inability to follow the law governing the asylum process. The law allows for mandatory detention of arriving immigrants whether credible fear has been found or not, he reminded the secretary. However, Goodlatte stated that the administration has since issued policy directives, making the process more accommodating to immigrants so long as they can establish identity and prove they aren't a flight risk or danger to the community.

“This is inconsistent with the Congressional mandate in statute that requires detention,” Goodlatte wrote. “And not surprisingly, the timing of this memo appears to correlate with the uptick in credible fear claims in recent years.

“Once again the Administration has chosen to turn the immigration enforcement switch off in a manner contrary to the intent of Congress, by simply enforcing the immigration laws when, where, and as it is deemed fit,” the letter said. “Such actions are the primary reason why our immigration system is broken today. We plan to conduct oversight of this issue and address concerns via the House’s step-by-step approach to reforming our immigration system.”

He called for a briefing from Homeland Security.

Goodlatte said that claims of credible fear have increased from 5,222 in 2009 to 23,408 in the first three quarters of this year. He added that Homeland Security is allowing 92 percent of these claims to move forward for further proceedings, contrary to reports that about 91 percent of the claims from Mexico are ultimately denied.

The chairman also pointed out that some critics question Mexican immigrants concerns about gang violence if they return home as “highly unusual” and believe it's mostly “an orchestrated sham.”