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Asylum Grant Rates Climb Under Biden: TRAC

November 10, 2021 (2 min read)

TRAC, Nov. 10, 2021

"Under the new Biden administration, asylum seekers are seeing greater success rates in securing asylum. While relief grant rates had fallen ever lower during the Trump years to just 29 percent in FY 2020, they rose to 37 percent in FY 2021 under President Biden.

However, with the ongoing partial Court shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sustained drop in the number of asylum decisions. Even with the greater odds of success, the number of asylum seekers who were granted asylum during FY 2021 was only 8,349 with an additional 402 granted another type of relief in place of asylum. In sheer numbers, this was only about half the number of asylum seekers who had been granted relief during FY 2020, the final year of the Trump administration.

The improved asylum grant rates during FY 2021 began only after the new Biden administration took office at the end of January 2021. Tracking asylum grant rates month-by-month rather than year-by-year, the increase in asylum grant rates under President Biden for the last quarter of FY 2021 (July-September 2021) was even larger: asylum seekers' success rates climbed to 49 percent. Not only was this much higher than at any period during the Trump years, the asylum success rate was up five percentage points from 44 percent during the last quarter of the Obama administration.

Historically, asylum seekers have had greater success in the Immigration Court for affirmative as compared with defensive asylum cases. At one time, the majority of asylum applications decided by Immigration Judges were affirmative cases referred by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, most asylum applications today are considered defensive applications and filed in response to the Department of Homeland Security initiating removal proceedings in Immigration Court.

Asylum seekers who are represented by an attorney - as most are in affirmative asylum cases - have greatly increased odds of winning asylum or other forms of relief from deportation. For all Court decisions in FY 2021, nearly nine out of ten (89%) asylum seekers in affirmative and defensive cases were represented. This was clearly a vital factor in improving overall asylum success rates since in the prior year, FY 2020, representation rates were 80 percent or nine (9) percentage points lower.

Read the full report - the first in a two-part series - to obtain many more details about trends in Immigration Court asylum decisions over the past two decades at:

The impact of gender, age, language, and nationality will be covered in the second report in this two-part series. Readers need not wait to probe these and many more details on asylum decisions using TRAC's free web query tool -- now updated through September 2021 and expanded to cover gender, age, and language details. As before users can also drill in to see how decisions vary geographically, by state, Immigration Court, and hearing location. Go to:

To examine a variety of Immigration Court data, including asylum data, the backlog, MPP, and more now updated through September 2021, use TRAC's Immigration Court tools here:

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