Asylum Denials Increase

Asylum Denials Increase Under Trump Administration

In 2018, many news stories regarding politics and immigration shocked the United States (U.S.) and its citizens. The current administration, led by President Donald Trump, has proven to be very antagonistic towards immigrants, their families, and immigration in general. Trump has attacked several stalwart foundations of immigration and nationality, including birthright citizenship and political asylum.

The president and his appointees have stated many times that “fraudulent” cases of asylum are a serious problem in the U.S. This has, theoretically, shaped certain attempts at policy changes, including a November proclamation altering asylum law that was later denied by the Supreme Court. Despite this victory, 2018 data regarding asylum cases proves disheartening. Asylum denials, which have been rising steadily for several years, have reached a record high. This affects the lives of thousands of people who may genuinely fear for their lives.

In this article, we explore:

  • the current U.S. situation regarding asylum processing backlogs;
  • Asylum processing data from 2018;
  • Asylum denial data from 2018; and
  • Potential reasons for the jump in asylum case denials.

Case Processing Backlogs

One serious issue that the U.S. faces regarding asylum is backlogs and wait times. Currently, hundreds of thousands of people await answers regarding their appeals for asylum. As of January 2018, over 300,000 applications were under consideration. Despite this, the application rate has “more than tripled” in recent years all while old cases continue to pile up. Considering the grave and serious nature of many asylum claims, families waiting can feel like their lives hang in the balance as they await government or court decisions.

Announcement by USCIS in January 2018

The backlogs experienced by the U.S. asylum system were so severe that in January 2018 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an announcement regarding a new processing policy. According to the announcement, immense backlogs required the institution of a policy once used from 1995-2014. The policy, titled “Last In, First Out,” was intended to allow the USCIS to “identify frivolous, fraudulent, or otherwise non-meritorious claims earlier.”

Increases in Both Asylum Processing and Denials

The USCIS’s new processing policy seems to have worked, at least in increasing processing times for asylum cases. According to TRAC, a total of 42,224 claims were processed via immigration judges, representing a 40% increase since fiscal year (FY) 2017. But it is unclear if pressure to process cases has affected asylee’s rights to fair consideration, as with a rise in processing came an even larger rise in case denials.

Increase in Denials

In 2018, 65% of asylum requests were denied, up from 60.2% in FY 2017. This does represent a continuing trend, though the increase this year is significant. In fact, for the previous six years, asylum denials have been on the rise. This increase, according to TRAC, is not caused by asylum seekers missing court dates or a lack of representation. Interestingly, only 1.4% of denials were due to failure to appear. Additionally, the U.S. saw a rise in asylum seeker representation in 2018. Legal representation rates rose from 78.4% during FY 2017 to 84.4% in FY 2018.

So, if asylum seekers are showing up at court, and the vast majority of them have legal counsel, what is causing the stark increase in case denials?

According to TRAC, a recent rise in denials is a direct response to the actions of the Trump administration, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In June 2018, he made an announcement that asylum could not be provided to victims of domestic abuse or gang violence. This severely limited judges’ ability to grant asylum, and the data show a stark increase in denials following Sessions’ announcement. TRAC calls this “hard line” specifically punitive for Central American women and their children. These family groups often seek U.S. protection from family or gang members.

Looking to the Future

It is unclear what will happen regarding asylum and other immigration concerns as we enter 2019. According to CBS News, as of September 30, 2018, immigration courts still had an existing backlog of over 1 million cases. While not all these cases concern asylum, it is a problematic trend to see immigration courts so taxed and overburdened. Such conditions can lead to rushed judgments, heartbreak, and denied justice.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney in Austin

The current situation facing asylum seekers in the U.S. is not only frustrating, it can be disheartening and fear-inducing. The best decision you can make is to work with an expert immigration attorney. They have the training and knowledge to protect your rights and ensure your application is free from errors or mistakes that may cause denials or setbacks. They’ll also ensure you receive fair consideration.

The attorneys at Nanthaveth & Associates work tirelessly to help clients in all facets of immigration law. If you or a loved one wish to apply for asylum, or are facing a setback in any immigration matter, call today to set up a free initial consultation. You’ll talk to an expert lawyer, hear your options, and leave with a plan.


The data presented in this article are courtesy of TRAC. You can find more information on TRAC’s website.