The U.S. Asylum System in Crisis: Charting a Way Forward

Report Author: 
Doris Meissner, Faye Hipsman & T. Alexander Aleinikoff
Original Date of Publication: 
September, 2018

Each year, the U.S. asylum system offers protection to thousands of persecuted individuals. Yet the system has reached a crisis point, the result of a confluence of factors that have led to a major backlog of cases, with many applicants waiting years for a decision. Amid rising numbers of asylum claims, the Trump administration has taken a number of actions to narrow access to humanitarian protection in the United States.

The U.S. Asylum System in Crisis: Charting a Way Forward takes a step back to examine the factors that have brought the U.S. asylum system to this crisis point—from regional migration dynamics that are changing the profile of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, to inefficiencies in affirmative and defensive asylum processes. Based on this analysis and lessons learned from the mid-1990s reform of the asylum system, the authors propose common-sense steps that can be implemented now to get the system back on track. This multipronged approach includes measures to help make asylum workflows more strategic and effective, resolve cases in a timely fashion, deter abuses, and strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries to better manage humanitarian flows through the region.

Download now or view online


Meissner, D., Hipsman, F., & Aleinikoff, T.A. (2018). The U.S. Asylum System in Crisis: Charting a Way Forward. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from

Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute