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Outmatched: The U.S. Asylum System Faces Record Demands

February 13, 2024 (1 min read)

Kathleen Bush-Joseph, MPI, Feb. 2024

"Known for its long tradition of providing refuge, the U.S. humanitarian protection system is under significant strain at a time of mass displacements globally, a backlog of 2 million asylum applications, and record arrivals of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Biden administration has turned to alternate pathways to provide temporary protection to some, while imposing restrictions to asylum.

Without a more efficient system and resources for adjudicating asylum cases and expanded lawful pathways to meet growing protection needs, the nation’s immigration courts and asylum offices will become increasingly overwhelmed and individuals in need of protection will not receive it in a timely manner. Yet U.S. immigration laws, written decades ago, remain stuck in the past and are no longer fit for purpose. With asylum a fraught political issue in the United States, as in other key destination countries, the U.S. Congress has been unable to set aside partisan and ideological differences to act.

This report examines the current state of the U.S. protection system, with a particular focus on recent changes the Biden administration has been making in asylum processes and temporary protections, as well as the challenges and lessons the U.S. experience may offer for other asylum systems and countries."

Kathleen Bush-Joseph is a lawyer and Policy Analyst with the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at MPI. She has experience with removal proceedings, asylum, and refugee law. Previously, she worked at the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, where she represented unaccompanied immigrant children. Earlier, she consulted for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, and represented tenants in New York City Housing Court as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society. She traveled to Benin as a University of California President's Public Service Law Fellow after law school. During law school, she interned at the OHCHR in Switzerland and at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, DC. Ms. Bush-Joseph earned her juris doctor at UCLA School of Law with a specialization in international and comparative law. She earned a bachelor of arts in history from Georgetown University. She is barred in the Third Department of New York.