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Since the start of the Trump administration, immigration courts have faced an unprecedented wave of asylum applications from immigrants already caught up in deportation proceedings, according to new Justice Department data first given to Axios.

Expand chart
Data: Executive Office for Immigration Review; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Why it matters: This surge has contributed to the record backlog in immigration courts, which in turn, creates long wait times for immigrants. It also slows down deportations and immigration law enforcement, Gary Mead, former Executive Associate Director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operation, told Axios.

The big picture: It's not just asylum applications. The overall number of new immigration cases was higher in 2017 than any year during the Obama administration. Still, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) managed to get through the most cases since 2012 last year — and is on pace to complete around 15,000 more this year.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has introduced several policies to speed up immigration decisions, but cases and applications keep rolling in.

Between the lines: Increased immigration enforcement — such as the record number of ICE arrests — and growing public awareness of the asylum process have likely contributed to the trend, according to a DOJ official and two former Department of Homeland Security officials.

By the numbers

The big stat: EOIR received 119,144 defensive asylum applications last year — meaning they occurred while immigrants were already in deportation proceedings — compared to 68,530 in 2016.

  • There were only 30,179 asylum decisions in federal courts in 2017, according to data collected by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
  • Last year, EOIR granted the highest number of asylum applications since Obama took office at 6,988, but — because of the jump in applications — the percentage of successful applications was the lowest in at least eight years.
  • Almost 5,000 asylum seekers were ordered to be removed because they did not show up to their court date — another record since at least 2007.

The state of play: Last year, immigrants claiming asylum in both defensive and affirmative — they turned themselves in — situations received the highest denial rate since at least 2007 at 35%.

  • The 2018 denial rate as of the end of March was 41%.
  • Yes, but: The DOJ has not yet released denial numbers or rates for specifically defensive asylum claims.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.

If both David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — the two embattled Georgia senators he was campaigning for — lost their runoff elections the following day, the GOP would lose control of the U.S. Senate. And Trump did not want the blood of Georgia on his hands.

Parler shows signs of life

Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Far-right-friendly social network Parler is beginning to resurface after going dark last week following a series of bans by Google, Apple and Amazon.

The big picture: By getting a new internet provider that's friendly to far-right sites, Parler — home to a great deal of pro-insurrection chatter before, during and after the Capitol siege — may have found a way to survive despite Big Tech's efforts to pull the plug.

Trump's "American Heroes" are 73% men

Expand chart
Data: Trump Executive Order and Axios reporting. Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Delivering on a promise he made at Mount Rushmore this summer, President Trump yesterday released his 244 candidates for a "National Garden of American Heroes."

By the numbers: Men outnumber women nearly four to one (192 to 52). 86 of the nominees, nearly a third, were born between 1900 and 1950.