If online reviews of Asylum Officer ("AO") jobs are to be believed, our nation's AOs are not doing well. They are overworked, fearful of losing their jobs, and unhappy with management.

Now, I know what you're thinking - online reviews are not reliable. I agree. My feeling is that anyone who spends 20 minutes reviewing shampoo is not the type of person I want to take advice from--about shampoo or anything else. And so, it is important to take these reviews with a big grain of salt: They are written by anonymous people and we have no way of verifying their claims or knowing whether they have ulterior motives. Online reviews also tend to be written by people who are unhappy about something, and so I imagine that happy AOs are less likely to post a review than unhappy ones. Nevertheless, after looking at about a dozen detailed reviews online and checking with my inside source, I feel pretty confident that these reviews were posted by actual AOs and that they are generally reflective of the situation in our nation's Asylum Offices.

The website with the AO reviews is called Glassdoor, which bills itself as "one of the world's largest job and recruiting sites." Apparently, the negative reviews caught the attention of management and caused a bit of a stir at the Asylum Office. You can see about a dozen AO job reviews here and one more here. Most of the reviews give the AO job one star out of five. The best review gives three stars and the average is 1.6 stars. By comparison, the Glassdoor page for USCIS gives jobs at the agency an overall rating of 3.3 (and this number would be higher if we could factor out AO reviews, which are included with all the other USCIS reviews).

Glassdoor breaks down the reviews into Pros and Cons, and has a section for Advice to Management. Let's start with some positives. The two most common Pros listed by AOs are health insurance/benefits and that you have the ability to help people. However, even many of the Pros are qualified positives. Here are some Pros from two different AOs--

The Asylum Division has some of the smartest, most dedicated employees. Asylum Officers are highly educated and they are by far some of the most competent people working in the federal government. Many Asylum Officers have taken demotions and pay cuts to work as an Asylum Officer. Also, the cooperation among the Asylum Officers is exemplary. Asylum Officers work very well with each other as they can relate to each other’s pain and suffering while trying to learn this job and keep up with unrealistic demands by management.

You may get an office to yourself, with all the paper clips and staplers all setup for you because whoever you are replacing left in a hurry. You get a first hand horrific glimpse into how tax dollars are wasted, and a lesson in labor law and union "representation", due to the gross mismanagement and brutalizing egos of socially awkward and millennial minded supervisors and directors. you won't have to rent horror movies anymore, because you'll be living in one.

Yes, those are the Pros. The Cons include poor management, an overwhelming case load, high turnover, unrealistic expectations, and working extra hours without pay. Here are some quotes from AOs about the negative aspects of their job. Trigger Warning: These ain't pretty--

The current White House Administration would love for you to not exist.

The time provided to do interviews, update systems, and write up cases [is] insufficient and forces Asylum Officers to engage in unpaid overtime. If you get a backlog of cases, you may be written up and I have [known] people to [be] fired for having a backlog.... The IT systems Asylum Officers use is 40 years old. This makes doing the job very hard.

The workload is extremely unrealistic. You are expected to read your cases, conduct security checks, prep paperwork, call interpreters, interview 4 people, document miscellaneous items, and then write up your decisions in an 8 hr. day.

Too many [Cons] to list. All around awful experience. This place will be a stain on your professional record.

If we were to use one word to describe the Asylum Division’s conduct toward its employees it would be: abusive. The new PPA [performance evaluation] added another layer to this conduct. The Asylum program’s number one management tool in dealing with Asylum Officers is distilling fear; fear of not interviewing fast enough, fear of not writing up the cases fast enough, fear of not satisfying some of the supervisors, and most importantly, fear of the new PPA. Fear, fear, fear; almost nothing, but fear. So, if you want your career to be driven by meeting unrealistic expectations by fear, becoming an Asylum Officer would be the perfect choice for you.

If you already have experience in the field of immigration, this is CAREER SUICIDE. Supervisors (Who routinely have no experience in it) will resent you and make your life hell.... The supervisors are grossly incompetent, and will SET YOU UP to FAIL, and spend their time undermining your work, instead of actually helping to address the issue of THEIR failing procedures.... Supervisors and directors wholly operate with malicious intent and gross neglect in regards to the purpose of the agency, and are only concerned with getting a higher grade level and feathering their own nests. There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY whatsoever, from the supervisors, to the directors. The management at the asylum office ruins lives, and not just those of the applicants. OIG [Office of the Inspector General] needs to investigate management, bring charges and overhaul this agency.

Management is grossly incompetent, back-stabbing, insulting, treat you like kids in a summer camp and many are 2nd-tier law school graduates that couldn't make it as a lawyer or even a government attorney for the family court, district court or any court.... You listen to stories of torture and persecution and unlike... any other government organizations, where time is built in to deal with 2nd-hand psychological trauma, you are told to "make sure you take care of yourself." WITH WHAT TIME? ... If you don't churn out the number of cases that they want and keep in mind this is with the constant ramp-up, month after month[, you] will be terminated and your personal record will reflect that you were terminated. Do not take this job unless your rent is due, you have exhausted all your financial resources and you have no other government prospects. If you mis-step, you will NOT have a career in the government.

stunning incompetence and bad faith decisions at ALL levels of management, from the supervisors to the directors.... extremely low morale and toxic work environment.

Yikes. But there's more. Here's what some of the AOs had to say for Advice to Management--

If your department is turning over at 40% to 50% a year, it's not that the work is too hard, it's because you and those above you are lacking in the ability to establish a process with integrity, fairness and nurturance.

I have no advice. RAIO [Refugee, Asylum and International Operations] USCIS Management knows there is high turnover and does not care. They can simply hire more people. My advice is to the US Congress and GAO. You need to know what is going on in RAIO Asylum and make changes.

Lower the interview amount to 3 assigned cases a day, offer economic incentives to people who can do more in a day.

Adjust allotted times for interviewing and writing assessments.

How do you live with yourselves? Turn yourselves in before you make things even worse. You're really, really bad at your jobs.

Advice to lawmakers: Someone should look into what is going on in the Asylum Division and stop the questionable labor practices.

Realize it's not YOUR personal agency to make up the rules how you want. Seek therapy, get a life coach, and get a reality check: the younger officers who laugh at all your awkward jokes, and oblige your antics at forced weekly meetings where you give yourselves awards for a job well done (not making that up), don't actually like you or agree with you at all. they are just afraid to lose their jobs. look into the actual work you are supposed to be supervising, don't imitate the behaviors of the corrupt governments that the applicants are running from. morale is at an all time low, numbers are at an all time low, and you seem happy to make it worse. if you are getting a sense you are really bad at your job, move on to an agency or a do nothing federal position where you will do less harm.

Oy Vey. Again, we need to read the above comments skeptically, since dissatisfied people may be more likely to post negative reviews. Nevertheless, all this points to some real issues at the Asylum Offices.

As for solutions, there is no easy fix, particularly in the current environment, and I doubt we will see any improvement soon. The Director of the Asylum Division for the last six years was recently forced out. The new Acting Director was moved to his current position from the USCIS fraud detection section. How he will manage the agency's problems, we shall see, but he faces a fundamental and perhaps unresolvable challenge: While the Administration wants to block all asylum seekers regardless of the law, the AOs themselves are sworn to follow the law. As long as management is pressuring AOs and their immediate supervisors to ignore the law, it is hard to imagine how working conditions will improve. And of course, all this affects asylum seekers in terms of worse decisions and longer delays.

The only hopeful note here is that AOs seem to be pushing back against the Administration's worst excesses. But these only represents part of the problem, as issues at the Asylum Offices long pre-date Mr. Trump. Whether the bureaucracy can save us, I do not know, but as long as AOs continue to do their jobs and follow the law--even under difficult conditions--there is still hope for our nation's asylum system.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com