FY 2012 A Record Year for Asylum Cases

Figure 1. Asylum Denial Rates in Immigration Courts
(Click for larger view and details)
The odds of an asylum claim being denied in Immigration Court reached an historic low in FY 2012, with only 44.5 percent being turned down. Ten years ago, almost two out of three (62.6%) individuals seeking asylum lost their cases in similar actions. Twenty years ago fewer than one out of four (24.0%) asylum applicants won their cases, while three out of four (76.0%) lost. See Figure 1.

These latest Immigration Court numbers are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Overall, the data indicate that a total of 11,939 individuals were awarded asylum last year, the highest number receiving asylum in Immigration Court proceedings since FY 2007.

While the odds of winning a case have been improving, the number of asylum cases decided by Immigration Judges has fallen since 2003. In that year 35,782 asylum cases were heard — a high water mark for case decisions. By FY 2010, that number had fallen precipitously to just 19,445. Since then volumes have rebounded slightly: during FY 2012 there were 21,512 asylum cases decided. See Table, "Asylum Decisions in Immigration Courts."

Prosecutorial Discretion and Asylum

Asylum applicants also made up more than a quarter (29.4%) of all cases closed under the prosecutorial discretion (PD) initiative during FY 2012. A total of 2,827 asylum applicants accepted administrative closures under this program, as compared with a total of 9,616 PD closures during the twelve-month period. These closures, of course, are not included in the 11,939 individuals who won their asylum cases last year.

PD closures are not the only type of administrative closures. Administrative closures for other reasons vary from year to year, but have averaged around 2,400 during the previous five years. When PD closures were added to administrative closures for other reasons, last year a total of 4,869 individuals had their cases administratively closed and were allowed at least for the time being to remain in this country.

Thus, another way of examining these figures is in terms of the odds of being allowed to remain in this country. FY 2012 was a banner year in these terms as well. When those that won their cases outright are combined with administrative closures[1], a total 63.7 percent of asylum applicants or 17,012 individuals were allowed to remain in the U.S. in cases concluded last year.

Judge-by-Judge Asylum Decisions: New Reports Released

TRAC's report series on asylum decisions has been updated through FY 2012. As in the past, whether an individual request for asylum is approved or denied is still heavily dependent upon the judge who was assigned to decide it.

An overview of judge asylum rates court-by-court, based upon each judge's report is listed in the Appendix to this report, "Judge-by-Judge Asylum Decisions in Immigration Courts."

To be included in this series, a judge must have made at least 100 asylum decisions during the reporting period.

The 2012 reports on each individual Immigration Judge, with year-by-year denial rates and current comparative rankings, can be viewed at TRAC's judge-by-judge menu page.

[1]Administrative closures exclude those for transfers and changes in venue.