A Closer Look at 20 Years of Asylum Data: Half of Applicants Successful, but 670,000 Cases Still Pending
(22 Dec 2021) According to case-by-case records from the Immigration Courts, Immigration Judges completed close to one million cases where immigrants had applied for asylum since FY 2001. For completed cases, half of all applicants were ultimately successful in their quest to legally remain in the United States. Adding in the asylum grants by Asylum Officers in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), almost two-thirds (64%) of asylum seekers in the 1.3 million completed cases have been successful over the past two decades.

Yet, vast numbers of asylum cases filed over the past 20 years have not been resolved. Two-thirds of a million asylum seekers are still waiting for Immigration Court hearings to resolve their cases. This does not include those waiting for a hearing before USCIS. Court wait times have ballooned. At the end of FY 2012 the asylum backlog stood at 105,919. Ten years later the backlog had climbed to 667,229, or 6.3 times the size. Current wait times for cases in the asylum backlog now average 1,621 days. This translates into 54 months or nearly four and a half years.

Asylum cases are among the more complex and time-consuming cases that Immigration Judges handle. Given the explosive growth in the asylum backlog, asylum cases have now climbed to just under half (46%) of the overall Court's backlog covering all types of cases. Policies adopted to curtail the backlog's growth during previous presidential administrations have been unsuccessful in stopping the backlog's growth. From FY 2017 to FY 2020, the backlog shot up by 451,300 cases, nearly 8 times the increase during the last four years of the Obama administration. And now the increase in the asylum backlog in just the first year of the Biden administration is almost as large as the increase during the last four years of the Obama administration.

The asylum backlog and wait times for asylum seekers vary markedly by Immigration Court. The Denver Immigration Court currently has the longest wait times, followed by the Arlington Court and the New Orleans Court. The next highest asylum wait times are in the Courts in Portland, Omaha, Newark, and Seattle. Success rates of asylum seekers in completed cases which take into consideration not just outright asylum grants but also include other types of relief and Court determinations that allow asylum seekers to remain in the U.S. also varied across Immigration Courts. The success rate was highest in the New York Immigration Court, followed by Courts in Honolulu, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Boston.

Details on these and additional findings are included in the full report. Go to:

To drill more deeply into these findings by nationality, language, age, gender and more, access TRAC's newly released and updated asylum tools covering asylum filings, asylum decisions, and the asylum backlog.

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