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U.S. Asylum Backlog Reaches the Highest Number on Record

U.S. immigration courts have seen a 7-fold increase in asylum cases since 2012.
Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración | Shutterstock
Servicio de Ciudadanía e Inmigración | Shutterstock

There is a backlog of nearly 1.6 million pending asylum applications in U.S. immigration courts and Citizen and Immigration Services—the largest number on record, according to an analysis of data by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

U.S. immigration courts have seen a 7-fold increase in asylum cases since 2012. Ten years ago the pending asylum cases reached 100,000 cases. However, by the end of the fiscal year 2022, the backlog grew to over 750,000.

“Since then, in just the first two months of [fiscal year] 2023 (October – November 2022), the asylum backlog jumped by over 30,000 new cases and now totals, 787,882,” the clearinghouse stated.

According to the data, the migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. come from 219 different countries and speak 418 different languages. The leading countries of origin include individuals from Guatemala, Venezuela, Cuba, and Brazil. About 3 out of every 10 applications are for children under the age of ten.

Most migrants wait 4.3 years for their asylum hearing, according to the group. While they wait for their court hearings, some migrants are being monitored through the Department of Homeland Security’s Alternative to Detention program, while others are in ICE detention centers.

“It can take many years for the government to even call them [asylum seekers] for an interview or to go to court,” says Conchita Cruz, the co-executive director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), a non-profit organization helping asylum seekers.

In May, the Biden administration attempted to speed up asylum claims by allowing asylum officers to consider the claims instead of immigration court judges. While this process is expected to help clear the backlog, the effort is being implemented in a phased manner.

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