Immigration backlog hits 2 million with wait times dragging up to 4 years

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The total number of pending immigration cases now tops 2 million with average backlog wait times of four years, according to a new report.

And for the first time ever, the number of pending asylum cases exceeds 800,000, according to the report this week by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University.

The report also found that there has been a significant drop in the number of Venezuelans claiming asylum, notably after the Department of Homeland Security in October ordered Venezuelans who cross illegally between ports of entry back to Mexico. Prior to that, Venezuelans had been exempt from Title 42 due to the United States’ lack of diplomatic relations with the Venezuelan government.

But earlier this month, Mexico agreed to accept Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans in addition to Venezuelans three months ago.

“Individuals from these four countries face expanded use of expulsions and expedited removal, and may not be permitted to even claim asylum when attempting to enter this country,” the report said.

Under the new policy, no more than 30,000 asylum-seekers from these four countries per month will be granted humanitarian parole into the United States during their immigration proceedings. And they must apply for an interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at a border port via the agency’s CBP One app.

The TRAC report released Wednesday noted a significant drop in the number of Venezuelans who were issued Notices to Appear (NTA) by DHS — the first step in claiming U.S. asylum. In January 2022, the report found, 25% of all NTAs were issued to Venezuelans. That dropped to just 8% by the end of December.

At the start of the calendar year, Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans comprised 57% of all asylum applicants issued NTAs.

The report said the drop cannot all be attributed to the new policy and the Biden administration would be “foolhardy” to deem the new policy successful based on numbers.

“There are a myriad of other important factors impacting immigration flows and the issuance of new NTAs. This makes it challenging if not foolhardy to forecast — based on these data — how these specific administration policy changes will influence future filing trends,” the report says.

TRAC Graphic

In August, the number of immigration court cases initiated hit an all-time monthly high of 100,391. It dropped in September to 62,851 but rebounded to 84,070 in October, the report says.

In a speech Thursday to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stressed there is no single solution to stop illegal immigration. He says it is a hemispheric crisis and cited 2.5 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia, and 1.5 million in Peru. He said 350,000 Haitians are living in Brazil and Chile and Costa Rica has doubled the number of Nicaraguans living within its borders this past year.

“The threats and challenges we face are evolving, increasingly diverse, and dynamic. Yet, we can meet this moment if, and only if, we work together,” Mayorkas told the mayors. “The challenge of migration is not unique to the United States, nor to the border communities that confront it every day.”