Attorney General Jeff Sessions heavily criticized the United States' asylum system — or when someone arrives at the border and shows the need for protection from persecution in his or her home country.
Sessions said rampant "abuse and fraud" in the nation's asylum system has helped contribute to the illegal immigrant population of roughly 11 million people.
"Unfortunately, this system is currently subject to rampant abuse and fraud. And as this system becomes overloaded with fake claims, it cannot deal effectively with just claims. The surge in trials, hearings, appeals, bond proceedings has been overwhelming," Session said in remarks to the Executive Office for Immigration Review on Thursday.
When someone arrives at the border seeking asylum from persecution, he or she is able to show there's a "significant possibility" for needed protection, and will then be allowed to stay in the country pending a full hearing before an immigration judge.
Sessions said because of this system, immigrants will never show up before an immigration judge and remain in the country illegally.
He also noted the Obama administration in 2009 "expanded the concept of asylum beyond congressional intent," which created "more incentives for illegal aliens to come here and claim a fear of return."
"The consequences are just what you'd expect. Claims of fear to return have skyrocketed, and the percentage of claims that are genuinely meritorious are down," he said.
According to the most recent data, the U.S. granted asylum to more than 26,100 individuals in fiscal year 2015. The Executive Office for Immigration Review also currently has more than 600,000 asylum cases pending — a number that tripled since changes made to the system by former President Barack Obama in 2009, Sessions said.
"The system is being gamed. The credible fear process was intended to be a lifeline for persons facing serious persecution. But it has become an easy ticket to illegal entry into the United States," Sessions said.
On Sunday, the Trump administration sent a list of immigration demands to Congress, and said overhauling the asylum system is part of those demands.
Sessions called on Congress to pass legislation in line with those demands by President Trump.
"We can impose and enforce penalties for baseless or fraudulent asylum applications and expand the use of expedited removal. We can elevate the threshold standard of proof in credible fear interviews. We can expand the ability to return asylum seekers to safe third countries. We can close loopholes and clarify our asylum laws to ensure that they help those they were intended to help," Sessions concluded.