Approximately 1,582 Syrians filed new Syrian asylum cases in the U.S. in 2014, and 633 did so at the beginning of 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s most recent information.
“The immigration courts in some locales have become so backlogged that they’re not even able to enter new cases” into the system, said Anwen Hughes, the deputy legal director at Human Rights First.
There are two ways of gaining asylum in the United States: through an “affirmative” process, in which one applies within a year of arriving in the country; or a “defensive” option, when one is in the process of being deported.
The American asylum system is extremely under-sourced and overwhelmed by the humanitarian crisis in Central America that according to many immigration lawyers it is very common to have those who have applied for asylum within the last two years waiting a year or more for an interview putting many Syrian applicants toward the end of the line. Syrian applicants are left in a legal limbo.
USCIS has responded to this matter by hiring 175 officers for their eight asylum offices around the country; however, some lawyers are very skeptical about this being enough help considering the training these officers may still have to go through.
According to the most recent data from USCIS Syrians have a high approval rate for asylum cases. In 2013 and 2014 the percentage rate for approval was about 80 percent. Many are victims of severe trauma. Frequently the long wait begins to take a toll.