Under President Biden, the Border Patrol has arrested more people for crossing the country’s southern border illegally than in any other period since the government began counting in 1960.
His mandate coincides with a global migration movement driven by tens of millions of people displaced by war, persecution, climate change, violence and human rights violations, according to the United Nations.
More Americans away from the border are witnessing this trend as migrants head toward cities across the country. Most of these migrants have been asked to appear in immigration court, often years away. Some seek asylum with the aim of remaining permanently in the country.
Republicans have long used immigration as a cudgel against Democrats. Now Democratic leaders in parts of the country are calling on the Biden administration to do more to help support the hundreds of thousands of migrants who are arriving in their cities with nothing.
Border Patrol agents made as many arrests from February 2021 through the end of September. During this period, border authorities quickly released more than 1.7 million people to temporarily remain in the country. Thousands more were transferred to an immigration detention center and released to do the same.
People have one year from the day they enter the United States to file for asylum. There is no public data on the percentage of people who enter the country without authorization and end up seeking asylum.
More than 800,000 applications
This is the number of people who applied for asylum in the past year, an increase of 63 percent compared to the number of applications made the previous year.
Since people have a year to apply for asylum, the number of monthly applications often correlates with the number of crossings in the previous year. In fiscal 2022, border agents made 2.3 million arrests, the highest number of illegal crossings recorded since at least 1960, when the government began tracking such entries.
More than two million late
That’s the number of people in the United States waiting for a response from the federal government about whether they will be granted asylum.
Some migrants face persecution or torture in their home countries and may be eligible for asylum in the United States. But most don’t meet the qualifications set by a 1980 law that Congress has not updated.
During periods of increased crossings over the past two years, at least half of apprehended migrants were granted permission to remain in the country and fought deportation orders in immigration courts.
Although the numbers vary by month, U.S. government data shows that more than half of the people who crossed the southern border illegally in July and August were released after a few days with temporary resident authorization.
Fewer than 1,500 judges and asylum officers
There are 659 immigration judges and approximately 800 asylum officers who make decisions on asylum applications. In July, the government received approximately nine requests for each closed file.
Asylum applications are filed with two separate government agencies: the Immigration Court, part of the Department of Justice, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Justice. internal security.
Immigration court is typically the route taken by people who enter the country illegally through the southern border. They wait in line to surrender to Border Patrol agents and are subject to deportation proceedings. While their case is being decided, they can apply for asylum in immigration court.
It would cost more than $2 billion to eliminate the immigration court backlog over the next five years, according to analyzes and data from recent funding applications.
People who seek asylum from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are often those who entered the country legally, such as under a humanitarian parole program or on a visitor visa.
The agency did not provide a cost estimate of what it would take to get rid of its asylum backlog. But officials say it is too underfunded to catch up in the near future. The agency’s asylum backlog just topped 1 million for the first time.
Ten years in limbo
This is the time some people wait for the government to make a decision on their asylum application. Recent estimates show wait times average three years in immigration court and 10 years if an application is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Even if additional resources are added to help manage the overwhelming caseload, the number of asylum applications filed each year is far higher than the government is able to process.
For many, the years of waiting for a decision are benefit enough. Asylum seekers can work legally and often live in much safer environments than those they fled. Policymakers say this waiting period, which tends to lengthen as the backlog grows, is a key driver of illegal immigration.
1.3 million with expulsion orders
That’s the number of people who have been asked to leave the country but are still living in the United States, according to an official familiar with internal government data. This includes people whose asylum applications have been refused. Once migrants are informed by an immigration judge that they must leave the country, they have 90 days to do so. But many never do.