(CNN) — Nearly 1.6 million asylum applications are pending in US immigration courts and USCIS, the highest number ever recorded, according to analysis of federal data. conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
US immigration courts face a more than sevenfold increase in asylum cases from fiscal year 2012, when there were 100,000 pending cases, and the end of fiscal year 2022, when the backlog grew to more than 750,000. according to the clearinghouse.
“Since then, only in the first two months of the [año fiscal] 2023 (October-November 2022), the asylum backlog increased by more than 30,000 new cases and now stands at 787,882,” the center stated.
Asylum seekers come from 219 different countries and speak 418 different languages, according to the Syracuse group. Approximately three out of 10 are under the age of 18 and the main countries of origin are Guatemala, Venezuela, Cuba and Brazil, according to the group. Florida and Massachusetts are among the states with the highest increase in asylum applications.
Years of waiting for asylum hearings
The average wait time for an asylum hearing is about 4.3 years, but in Omaha, Nebraska — the court with the longest delay — the average wait time is 5.9 years, according to the group.
A growing number of asylum seekers are being monitored electronically through the Department of Homeland Security’s Alternative to Detention program. Meanwhile, a small portion — around 2,000 — are being held under ICE authority, according to the clearinghouse.
The analysis comes amid a recent wave of immigrants — many from Venezuela and Haiti — at the southern border of the United States.
Despite the freezing temperatures, border agents in the El Paso, Texas, area continue to encounter between 1,500 and 1,600 migrants each day, a federal law enforcement source with knowledge of operations on the ground told CNN.
This is a decrease compared to the figures of a few weeks ago, when there were 2,500 immigrants a day. Last week, daily encounters dropped to about 1,500, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.
The city declared a state of emergency earlier this month for the thousands of immigrants living in unsafe conditions.
Seeking shelter in the middle of winter weather
Many undocumented immigrants — those without proper documentation to show they have been processed by the US Border Patrol — have been on the streets seeking shelter during the winter storm. The same police source also warned that people smuggling has continued in the area.
Peter Jaquez, chief of the border patrol in El Paso, tweeted last week that in 48 hours agents had thwarted 12 smuggling schemes and apprehended 15 human smugglers and 57 migrants.
Efforts are being made in the El Paso area to transport migrants to other sectors for processing, according to the police source. Last week, some 6,000 immigrants were moved out of the El Paso area for processing. Another 3,400 were ejected on flights for that purpose, CNN previously reported.