About the Data

Findings are based upon a detailed analysis of the millions of immigration Court records covering applications for asylum. These individual case records were obtained through requests made by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) under the Freedom of Information Act to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a unit within the Department of Justice in which these administrative courts are housed.

These courts were established by Congress to conduct deportation proceedings and decide "whether foreign-born individuals, who are charged by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with violating immigration law, should be ordered removed from the United States."

Both affirmative and defensive asylum applications in the Immigration Courts are included in the data. Most asylum applications are considered defensive applications and filed in response to the Department of Homeland Security initiating removal proceedings in Immigration Court. An individual may then claim they are entitled to asylum as a defense against removal.

Alternatively, under some circumstances asylum applications can be first submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS later refers the application to the Immigration Court this is considered an affirmative application. Decisions by USCIS on asylum applications are not covered in these data.

What is Counted?

Counts include each decision granting or denying an asylum application by an Immigration Judge[1]:

  • Asylum denial rates in the judge-by-judge reports are based on the proportion of these asylum decisions that are denied. They do not factor in whether, though the application was denied, some alternative form of relief was granted.

  • In contrast, the new online query tool allows users to dig deeper. Asylum applications that are denied are further categorized by whether deportation was ordered through an entry of a removal or voluntary departure order, or some other form of relief or ground was found which allowed the noncitizen to remain in the country.

Using the Data Tool: Controlling Table and Graph Displays

Filtering the data using the three data columns. The data filter from left to right, so that as you select a dimension in the left table, it will then show you the sub-categories of data within that particular selection in the tables to the right. In other words, click on a category in the left table to display only cases within that class in the middle table and in the time series graph. Click on a category in the middle table to display only cases within that class in the right table and in the time series graph.

Number/percent toggle. By default, the number of cases is displayed in the graph. To instead display the value as a percent of the total for your current selection, choose the "Percent" option to the right of the graph. (Note: 100 percent will be displayed if the total ("All") was the category you have currently selected.)

Choosing the time scale for the graph. You can select whether you want the bars in the time series graph to represent the month or the year the asylum decision occurred using the radial buttons to the left of the graph.

Displaying values for a particular bar in a graph. Mousing over an individual bar in the time series graph produces a pop-up window where the particular statistical value is displayed.

Using the Data Tool: Controlling Which Factor Is Displayed

Data dimensions. To change the set of categories displayed in a table, select a different factor from the pull-down menu above that table. The following factors can be selected:

  • Fiscal Year Case Decided. The federal government's fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. So, for example, FY 2018 will return cases decided from October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018.

  • Month and Year Case Decided. The month and year the case was decided.

  • Immigration Court State. The state or territory where the Immigration Court assigned administrative responsibility for the case is located. Note that the actual hearing location may be in a different state, since some courts handle proceedings in more than one state.

  • Immigration Court. There are Immigration Courts located in different parts of the country assigned the administrative responsibility for handling proceedings in their geographic district. Courts are usually referred to by the city or place where they are located - what EOIR refers to as their "base city."

  • Hearing Location. Each Immigration Court usually has more than one geographic location in which judges hold hearings. Sometimes videoconferencing is used so that the individual and judge are not in the same location. Normally a hearing location is administered by a single Immigration Court.

  • Immigrant State. The state where the immigrant resided based upon the last recorded address (zip code) in the court's records. Where the individual remained detained, this may be the state where the detention facility was located[2].

  • Immigrant County. The county where the immigrant resided based upon the last recorded address (zip code) in the court's records. Where the individual remained detained, this may be the county where the detention facility was located[2].

  • Nationality. The recorded nationality of the individual.

  • Represented. Whether the individual did ("Represented") or did not ("Not Represented") have an attorney to help present the individual's case.

  • Custody. Whether the individual remained detained, was detained but released from custody, or was never detained since court proceedings began.

  • Affirmative/Defensive Application. The affirmative asylum process applies to asylum applications initially filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which are subsequently referred by USCIS to the Immigration Court for decision. The defensive asylum process applies when the initial asylum request is made to an Immigration Judge.

  • Absentia. Whether the individual was absent at the hearing in which a decision was reached by the Immigration Judge.

  • Decision. This records whether the asylum application was: (i) granted, (ii) denied and the individual ordered deported, or (iii) denied but the individual was allowed to legally remain in the country through the granting of another form of permanent or temporary relief. Here deportation orders include formal removal orders and voluntary departure orders. A removal order bars the individual from returning to the U.S. for a period of years, or in some cases permanently. With voluntary departure, the individual is required to leave the country but is not legally barred from returning.


[1] This definition accords with EOIR's reporting practices which the agency followed for many decades. Late in 2018, however, EOIR redefined how many cases and categories would be reported. Based on these changed definitions, the agency released revised figures for asylum grant and denial rates for FY 2009 - FY 2018. These new calculations covered all recorded decisions on asylum applications, including many that were decided on some other basis without reaching a grant or denial decision. Unfortunately, these EOIR's revised grant and denial rates do not reflect whether the individual was actually ordered deported or allowed to remain in the country. This is because there are many other forms of completions where even though the asylum application was not granted or denied, other valid reasons allowing the individual to legally remain in the country were found.

[2] Totals may differ slightly for dimensions involving immigrant addresses because of rounding error. Rounding error is introduced because the process of assigning county and state for zip codes that cross county or state boundaries utilize probabilities with fractional values.

Additional TRAC Immigration Enforcement Data and Tools

To access additional data using other TRAC immigration enforcement tools, go to this directory of data tools.