The US Has Denied Two-Thirds Of Asylum Requests Under Jeff Sessions’ Watch

Rule changes imposed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions have "significantly decreased the number of people who qualify for asylum," according to one expert.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images

Rule changes imposed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions have "significantly decreased the number of people who qualify for asylum," according to one expert.

Immigration courts have denied more asylum cases this year than they have in any other year since at least 1996.

More than 28,000 cases of asylum claims in the fiscal year 2018 were denied by immigration judges, according to reporting from BuzzFeed News. And while this year also saw the highest number of asylum cases approved since 1996 (totaling just over 14,000), the approval/disapproval rate is substantially lower than it has been in previous decades.

Just one-in-three asylum seekers were approved by immigration courts over the past year. To compare, during the Obama administration the chances of someone getting approved were much higher, going as high as 55 percent and never lower than 44 percent during his eight years in office.

Experts suggest the reason for the changes have to do with changes in policies created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In June, Sessions drastically altered who could apply for asylum, and restricted allowing individuals to make claims based on domestic abuse or gang violence in their home nations, according to reporting from the New York Times.

Immigration judges are different than regular federal court judges. Technically, members of the executive branch of government, they are bound by the attorney general’s rule changes, and cannot make opinions based on common law arguments as easily as judges in the judicial branch can, for example.

Some have seen the moves put forward by Sessions and the administration of President Donald Trump as purposeful, and going in the wrong direction.

“Through a targeted and well-coordinated effort the Trump administration has significantly decreased the number of people who qualify for asylum,” said Sarah Pierce, an analyst with Migration Policy Institute.

Pierce admitted that the system was in need of changes.

“While it is true that our asylum system is in need of major reforms, the administration’s response has been to reverse years of case law dictating who are legitimate asylum seekers,” she added.

The asylum numbers come out as news of a “caravan” of thousands of migrants continues to inch its way northward from Central American nations, although their arrival won’t come for at least two more months according to some estimates, according to reporting from the Washington Post. Those individuals are purportedly planning to claim asylum status when they reach the U.S. border, although it’s unclear how many will make it to that point, or will stop in Mexico or turn around.

The Trump administration announced this week it plans to send 5,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, although it’s not clear yet what their orders will be if the caravan arrives there. Some, such as Fox News’ Shepard Smith, have suggested the move by Trump to send the military to the border is a campaign ploy ahead of the midterm elections, according to reporting from the Hill.

In a stark departure from other Fox News commentators, Smith suggested to his viewers that the “migrant caravan” was nothing to worry over. “There is no invasion. No one’s coming to get you. There’s nothing at all to worry about,” Smith said.