Nepali Asylum Seekers Struggle Amid 8,310-Case Backlog in U.S. Immigration Courts, 3,087 in NY Alone

U.S. Immigration Court (Photo: EOIR)

A new report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) sheds light on the increasing number of Nepali nationals seeking asylum in the United States. The report reveals a significant backlog of cases, raising concerns about the efficiency of the immigration court system.

According to TRAC, there are currently 8,310 pending Nepali asylum cases in immigration courts. New York state leads the way with 3,087 cases, followed by San Antonio (1,903 cases) and San Francisco (1,519 cases). Even smaller cities like Dallas, Denver, and Baltimore are experiencing an increase in Nepali asylum seekers.

This surge comes on top of an existing backlog from previous years. As of the end of fiscal year 2023, there were already 6,424 pending Nepali asylum cases. The report also identifies six deportation cases against Nepali nationals facing criminal charges in the US.

The lengthy wait times for asylum decisions are a major concern. On average, a case takes 598 days to be resolved, with some courts experiencing much longer delays. Detroit and Omaha have the highest average wait times, exceeding 1,600 days. In New York City, the average asylum seeker waits over two years (736 days) for a decision.

Pending asylum applications of Nepali asylum seekers in US immigration court. Source: Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

“These figures highlight the urgent need for reform in the US immigration court system,” said Nepali American immigration attorney Ramesh Shrestha in New York.

According to Shrestha, the immigration system is experiencing significant delays at various stages. He noted that some asylum seekers who entered the US without a visa in 2022 or after have had their cases settled in court within a year or so, but many others face lengthy delays.

“For some recent arrivals after mid 2022, some cases have been settled within a year, but a large portion are stuck waiting for final hearing dates after the master hearing,” explained Shrestha. “In my experience, more than 70% of cases are stuck in the trial queue after the master hearing, with no certainty on the final hearing date.”

Shrestha also highlighted that those who entered the US without a visa from the Mexican border in 2021 or earlier or after COVID-19 pandemic were released on parole without a notice to appear (NTA), and most have yet to receive a credible fear interview date with USCIS.

Ramesh Shrestha, a Nepali American immigration attorney practicing in New York. Image courtesy of Khasokhas.

He estimated that about 95% of these individuals have not received a credible fear interview date, resulting in a significant backlog of cases pending before reaching the court. “On the other hand,” Shrestha added, “many who arrived in late 2021 or earlier haven’t even received a credible fear interview from USCIS. This creates a backlog even before they reach immigration court.”

Additionally, Shrestha mentioned that some asylum cases have been pending in immigration court since 2012, with delays caused by factors like judges’ retirements, lack of time, COVID-19 pandemic closures and transfers to new judges.

“Overall,” he emphasized, “the system is struggling to keep up with the increasing number of cases. These individuals have fled dangerous situations in their home country, and they deserve a fair and timely hearing. The current backlog is causing undue stress and hardship.”