The Biden administration is to blame for soaring asylum cases that have created a record years-long backlog in U.S. immigration courts, according to President Joe Biden’s own former Border Patrol chief.
“Several factors have contributed to this backlog, but the massive increase that we’re seeing today can be directly attributed to the Biden administration’s border and immigration policies,” said Rodney Scott, who headed the Border Patrol in both the Trump and Biden administrations.
“When the Biden administration went against the recommendations of experienced career border security professionals, terminated the Migrant Protection Protocols, canceled the Asylum Cooperative Agreements, and lowered the bar for credible fear determinations,” Scott continued, “they sent a message worldwide and opened the flood gates for anyone that could make up a sad story or recite the one that was provided to them by the cartel and so-called migrant aid organizations operating in Mexico.”
The Trump administration implemented both the Migrant Protection Protocols and the Asylum Cooperative Agreements. The former, commonly called the Remain in Mexico policy, requires some migrants seeking asylum to stay in Mexico as they await their immigration court date rather than be detained or released in the U.S. The latter are a series of agreements negotiated with Central American countries to curtail asylum fraud and limit asylum access to the U.S.
The Biden administration halted the agreements and has been trying to end the protocols. Earlier this month, however, a federal judge put a hold on the administration’s ongoing legal efforts to terminate Remain in Mexico.
The current years-long asylum backlog comes as illegal attempts to cross the southern border continue to reach all-time highs and critics blast the Biden administration for not doing enough to deter illegal immigration.
“While Congress owns the blame for leaving known loopholes in our immigration and asylum laws unaddressed, the massive increase in illegal border crossings and associated asylum claims falls squarely on the Biden administration and is a direct result of their failed policies,” Scott said.
Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) found in its latest assessment that nearly 1.6 million people seeking asylum in the U.S. are waiting for asylum hearings, the largest total number of pending asylum applications on record.
About half this total — 778,084 asylum seekers — are waiting for hearings before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officers, who are part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The other half — 787,882 — are waiting for hearings before judges in the Justice Department’s Immigration Courts. This number includes a spike of over 30,000 new cases in just October and November, the first two months of fiscal year 2023.
In March, to expedite the asylum process and decrease the backlog, the Biden administration implemented a new rule allowing asylum officers with USCIS to issue rulings on asylum cases for illegal immigrants rather than just judges.
However, the asylum backlog wait time for court appearances has increased to an average of 4.3 years nationwide, according to TRAC, which noted that at the end of fiscal year 2012, just over 100,000 asylum cases were pending in the Immigration Court’s backlog. In other words, the backlog increased more than seven-fold in a decade.
That being said, asylum backlogs aren’t new, as the number of people seeking asylum has normally exceeded the capacity of government agencies to process applications quickly and fairly. But in recent years, the situation has deteriorated precipitously.
“With political, economic, and environmental instability in places like Mexico, Venezuela, Haiti, Central America, Ukraine, and elsewhere, the United States has seen a growth in migrants’ needs that outpace even the growing number of Immigration Judges and asylum officers added by both Democratic and Republican administrations,” the TRAC analysis stated.