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Historical increase in the granting of asylum during 2022

Changes made by the Biden administration allowed immigration judges to double down on their positive responses.

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Highlighting how the number of people benefiting from this immigration figure went from 8,495 in fiscal year 2021 to 23,686 in fiscal year 2022, the highest number in any year in the history of the courts, an analysis carried out by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) based at Syracuse University, published at the end of November and socialized by NBCNews, also noted the increase in the total number of decisions, which rose from 24,810 to 51,607.

Good news?

What should be considered as positive news, has brought some negative consequences as well, especially as the acceleration of cases made it difficult for many people to access experienced legal counsel, leading to a figure where only 7% of families, whose cases passed to the front of the line through the administration's Dedicated Docket program, were granted asylum.

In addition, the report also showed that asylum grants have slowed, with 50% of cases granted asylum in June, falling to 41% of cases in September. In cases closed in 3 months to 18 months since July, asylum grant rates have fallen by 31%.

Legal advice makes the difference

Consistent with other study findings, people with lawyers fared better:

  • About 18% of those without lawyers were granted asylum.
  • Grant rates were about 2 1/2 times higher than for individuals without representation.
  • Those who were not detained had better asylum-granting rates, at 54%.
  • For their part, among those who were detained, only 15% were granted asylum.

TRAC also revealed that thanks to the dedicated dossier to expedite the processing of asylum claims from families arriving at the southern border, created by the Biden administration, more than 110,000 cases have already been sent there and almost 40,000 are now closed.

“Only a third, 33%, of those on the docket, were even able to file the complex asylum applications and about the same share, 34%, had attorneys. Only 2,984 of 39,187 closed cases of families on the dedicated docket were granted asylum. With sped-up dockets, people have less time to find an attorney or gather evidence or witnesses for their cases,” Susan Long, co-director of TRAC and associate professor of management statistics at Syracuse, told the publication.

A measure to speed up, but not to grant

Long points out that the objective of these measures is not to offer more help to asylum seekers, and even assures that given the imminent increase in the number of people who will try to cross the border after the government ends Title 42, which allows authorities expel hundreds of thousands of people who show up at the border, the Biden administration is already working on plans to reduce the number of people eligible for asylum.

“Not all cases reach an immigration court and there are different streams of asylum-seekers depending on whether or not they are in removal proceedings. The TRAC analysis is based only on cases that go to court. The results show that you can do it fast or you can do it fair, but not both,” stressed Long.

US-Mexico border, picture to illustrate the migration scenario on the south border. Photo: Pixabay.
US-Mexico border, picture to illustrate the migration scenario on the south border. Photo: Pixabay.

About the asylum process

The U.S. asylum process is intended to provide refuge to people who fear persecution in their country because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they belong to a particular social group.

According to organizations that defend migrants, the asylum process is very complex, starting with a series of interviews at the border to decide if there is a "credible fear" of harm or persecution in their country of origin, up to appeals of judicial decisions.

The Biden administration has set itself the goal of issuing decisions in dedicated docket cases within 300 days from the date a notice to appear in immigration court is issued, something it has achieved by making it effective in 275 days. 

According to TRAC, asylum awards, at 28% of cases sent to the dedicated docket, are well below the asylum awards of all other regular asylum procedures for FY 2022, at 52%.

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, deals with cases of people not in removal proceedings. Asylum officers can refer cases it rejects to the immigration courts. TRAC found that more than three-quarters of cases the agency had rejected were granted asylum by the immigration courts,” highlighted the report.

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