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Asylum Decisions and Denials Jump in 2018

“Fiscal year 2018 broke records for the number of decisions by immigration judges granting or denying asylum. Denials grew faster than grants, pushing denial rates up as well. In 65 percent of these decisions asylum was denied. This is the sixth year in a row that denial rates have risen. Six years ago the denial rate was just 42 percent. Asylum denial rates rose during the initial months of the Trump Administration and then leveled off. Denial rates rose again in June after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions restricted grounds on which immigration judges could grant asylum. Most of these asylum applicants had arrived well before President Trump assumed office. Given the backlog in the Immigration Court, about nine in ten decisions in represented cases had begun over 12 months before. However, over half the cases for unrepresented applicants had taken 12 months or less to decide. The outcome for asylum seekers continued to depend on the identity of the immigration judge assigned to hear the case. The San Francisco Immigration Court led the country in having the widest disparity among judges serving on the same court. Depending upon the judge, denial rates ranged from 97 percent down to 10 percent. Rising denial rates were not the result of asylum seekers failing to show up for their hearing, or increased difficulty in finding representation. During FY 2018, in 98.6 percent of all grant or deny asylum decisions the immigrants were present in court. Last year also saw a significant increase in the proportion of decided cases with representation. During FY 2018 representation rates increased to 84.4 percent.”

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