McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Asylum-seeking migrants have experienced a higher success rate with their immigration cases under the Biden administration, according to new data.

A new report by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data and research organization at Syracuse University, found an uptick in the number of cases granted asylum since President Joe Biden took office.

Asylum case denials decreased from 71 percent in Fiscal Year 2020 to 63 percent in Fiscal Year 2021, which ended on Sept. 30. In other words, the success rates increased from 29% to 37% under the new administration, according to the report published Wednesday.

Graphic by TRAC

Austin Kocher, a TRAC researcher, told Border Report on Monday that the number of migrants granted asylum began to significantly increase in May and June and that the overall increase even includes nearly four months of the fiscal year during which Donald Trump was still president.

Austin Kocher is a TRAC researcher (Kocher Photo)

“The big takeaway … was that the approval rate had gone up during the Biden administration,” Kocher said.

However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and reduced number of U.S. immigration court hearings that have been held, it is hard for researchers to determine exactly how and why migrants are winning their cases.

Kocher speculated that it could be due to migrants obtaining legal counsel and lawyers petitioning the courts to hear cases that they believe have a strong chance of winning asylum.

“It is really is hard to tell because of the pandemic exactly which cases are getting through,” Kocher said via Zoom.

Fewer than 9,000 asylum cases were decided in Fiscal 2021, down substantially from 60,000 asylum cases that were decided in Fiscal 2019.

On Monday, TRAC reported that the total number of immigration cases pending is nearing 1.5 million, and currently stands at 1,486,495.

Asylum is a form of protection that immigrants can lawfully request at the U.S. border if they believe they are facing persecution in their homeland.

These cases, however, are “exceedingly complex,” according to TRAC, and take into consideration migrants’ life histories, as well as current political and social events outside of the United States, as well as the “constantly shifting landscape of U.S. immigration laws and policies.”

TRAC found that the number of asylum seekers who were granted asylum during Fiscal 2021 was only 8,349 with an additional 402 granted another type of relief instead of asylum. This was only about half the number of asylum seekers who had been granted relief during Fiscal 2020.

Graphic by TRAC

TRAC has found that migrants who obtain lawyers have a much higher chance of winning their U.S. immigration cases.

The new TRAC study also found a change in the way immigration cases have been handled in the past two decades.

Today, most asylum applications are considered “defensive,” and filed in response to the Department of Homeland Security initiating removal proceedings in immigration court. An individual may then claim they are entitled to asylum as a defense against removal.

In past years, there were more “affirmative” asylum applications, which are first submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when there is no pending deportation case against that asylum-seeker. If USCIS denies the application, it then generally refers it to the immigration court, which is under the Executive Office for Immigration Review and is then considered an affirmative application.

Kocher explained that affirmative applications often were handled by conservations between USCIS officers and the applicant, not in a court setting and were much less formal.

From Fiscal Years 2001-10, about 60% of asylum applications were for affirmative cases referred by USCIS, TRAC found. But in 2016, when Trump took office, the number of defensive asylum applications began to increase, the TRAC report found.

“Now it is the vast majority of cases are defensive cases, which is they are put right into the deportation process from the very beginning,” Kocher said. “A court hearing can be very adversarial, whereas a hearing with just an asylum officer can be more of a conversation and not so confrontational.”

TRAC is preparing another report relating to these findings and will break down the nationality, age, gender and language of migrants who have successfully been granted asylum. That study is expected out by Thanksgiving Day.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at