THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE: Biden admin changes have led to a historic number of court-granted asylum cases. But there's some consequences, too.
Dec. 14, 2022, 10:18 AM EST By Suzanne Gamboa CROSS POSTED FROM NBC NEWS HERE
The number of people granted asylum in immigration courts hit a historic high this fiscal year under the Biden administration's adjustments to the asylum process, a recent data analysis shows. But only 7% of families whose cases were moved to the front of the line through the administration's Dedicated Docket program got asylum, according to an analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, based at Syracuse University. The number of people granted asylum by immigration judges rose from 8,495 in fiscal year 2021 to 23,686 in fiscal year 2022, according to the report.
The TRAC report, released in late November, said the 2022 number was the largest number of individuals granted asylum in any year in the courts' history. The total number of decisions also more than doubled from 24,810 to 51,607.
“He really had an impact on speeding up the asylum process,” Susan Long, co-director of TRAC and an associate professor of managerial statistics at Syracuse, said of President Joe Biden. However, the analysis also showed that grants of asylum have slowed, with 50% of cases granted asylum in June falling to 41% of cases in September. In cases closed in three months to 18 months since July, the asylum grant rates have fallen 31 %.
Grant rates were higher for people who had lawyers, about 2 1/2 times more than those without representation. About 18% of those without lawyers got asylum. Also, those released from detention had better asylum grant rates, 54% this fiscal year, compared to those who were detained, 15% of whom were granted asylum.
The administration created the dedicated docket to speed up the processing of asylum requests from families who arrived on the southern border. More than 110,000 cases have been sent there and nearly 40,000 are now closed, TRAC reported.
Cases assigned to dedicated dockets have been expedited ahead of an existing approximately 2 million case backlog in the courts.
TRAC found that 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, Long said.
Former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump also tried to speed up asylum cases as Biden has done, and in all cases it was difficult for the asylum-seekers to get attorneys and to succeed in getting asylum, said Victoria Neilson, supervising attorney at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.
"I don't think any of those administrations was speeding them up because they thought it would be more fair for the asylum-seeker. I think they thought they could get some sort of political points by saying they were essentially punishing the most recent border crossers," she said. The nation’s asylum process is meant 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”.
The asylum process is getting renewed attention with the impending lifting of Title 42, a Trump administration border restriction implemented during the pandemic to expel hundreds of thousands of people showing up at the border. The Biden administration plans to end Title 42 by a court-imposed Dec. 21 deadline. Many people who arrive at the border, including those who cross illegally, turn themselves over to border enforcement officers and ask for asylum. Officials expect increases in the number of migrants crossing the border as the expulsions end.
In anticipation, the Biden administration is working on plans to reduce the number of people eligible for asylum at the border.
Melanie Nathan of African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC), is a country conditions expert witness in the U.S. Courts for LGBT people from 18 African countries, providing detailed country of origin reports and testimony at hearings. Currently the AHRC grant rate is at 100% (with one case succeeding on appeal in being returned to court of origin). In all these cases clients have been represented by Counsel - law firms, immigration clinics, university law clinics and organizations such as Southern Poverty Law Center. Clients also have had the advantage of dedicated unique expert reporting, to include psych reports, for their individual cases. There has been an uptick in the amount of cases we are receiving from African countries at this time and things seem to be moving much quicker compared to the Trump era.