The process of seeking asylum in the United States is long and fraught with stress and hardship. But asylum seekers who apply through the Boston Asylum Office face a unique challenge: an asylum grant rate that is well below the national average. From 2015 to 2020, the Boston Asylum Office, on average, granted a mere 15 percent of asylum applications, with some months granting as low as 1.5 percent of asylum seekers. In contrast, the national average grant rate was nearly twice as high: 28 percent.
This trend worsened following the election of former President Donald Trump. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, the Boston Asylum Office reported a grant rate of a mere 11 percent, while the national average was 27 percent. The Boston Asylum Office has failed to adequately explain why its grant rate has remained far below that of the national average. The result of this disproportionately low grant rate is that people fleeing persecution in their home countries are wrongly denied asylum and the protections afforded to them by international and U.S. law. Asylum seekers may ultimately have to wait years for their cases to be resolved. During this time, they are separated from their family members abroad who often remain in danger. All of this compounds stress and trauma on individuals who have already fled persecution.
This report, which was compiled by analyzing documents produced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in response to a FOIA request, and interviews of asylees, asylum seekers, immigration attorneys, asylum officers (AOs), and supervisory asylum officers (SAOs), seeks to answer the fundamental question: Why does the Boston Asylum Office approve such a small percentage of asylum cases?