US Asylum Backlogs Soaring, Testing Patience for Those Fleeing Persecution


Many Syrians have waited for more than a year to hear back from U.S. officials as they wait in asylum backlogs. For many, the last sliver of hope for their futures in the United States. Around 4 million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war began, but asylum seekers lucky enough to reach the United States still face long and uncertain waits to be approved.

For thousands of asylum seekers who have escaped persecution and violence in their home countries, experiences such as leaving their families behind and having their children grow up without them are very common.

The number of pending asylum cases has increased by more than 800 percent over the last four years, and this has stretched out the period of uncertainty in some cases from six months to two years, or from two years to four.

For the asylum seekers that have made it to the United States, and were able to get a U.S. work permit, this has allowed them to make enough money to support themselves and their families back home in countries such as Kuwait. But the financial and emotional toll of long separations begins to mount over the years.

Since July of 2013, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) increased its numbers of asylum officers by 65 percent.

So far this year, USCIS has granted asylum to 83 percent of applications from Syrian nationals. But there is still a political tussle over asylum for tens of thousands of others waiting in line. U.S. courts have been inconsistent on granting relief to those fleeing gang-related violence, which make up many of the recent Central American cases.

The uncertainty of the time frame around asylum cases is also eroding immigration lawyers’ ability to manage their caseloads.