In the country’s largest immigration court, located in New York City, the denial rate of asylum petitions has increased at a rate that is about 17 times faster than in immigration courts throughout the country. The New York court handles about one-quarter of the total asylum caseload in immigration courts nationwide and long has been a leader in the number of asylum petitions granted across the nation. At the end of federal fiscal year 2019, the court’s rate of asylum petition approval still hovered at 55%.
Nonetheless, asylum denial rates have risen precipitously from 15% in the fiscal year 2016 to 44% in the fiscal year 2019. In the rest of the country’s immigration courts, where asylum denial rates traditionally averaged 69%, denial rates have increased by about one-ninth, to 74%. A few other courts, such as those in Newark, Boston, and Philadelphia, also have experienced a dramatic increase in asylum petition denial rates. Still, their caseloads are very minimal in comparison to the sheer number of asylum cases that the New York handles.
The reasons for this spike in the New York court’s asylum denial rates is attributable to various factors, including:
- More migrants are coming to the court from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and judges have been more likely to deny these individuals asylum relief.
- Several veteran immigration judges have retired and been replaced with judges whose backgrounds are in criminal prosecution, military, or immigration enforcement.
- The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has put extreme pressure on immigration judges to process cases more quickly, basing employee evaluations in part on their speed in disposing of cases.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions also narrowed the scope of asylum eligibility by issuing decisions in selected Board of Immigration Appeals cases, as has his successor. Since these opinions are binding, immigration judges have little choice but to issue rulings within these confines. When combined with the often-conflicting duties of maintaining impartiality in cases and being employees of the DOJ, immigration judges are caught in a bind that likely has contributed to the spiraling asylum petition denial rates.
The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your immigration matter. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your situation.