From the Document: "Foreign nationals seeking asylum must demonstrate a well-founded fear that if returned home, they will be persecuted based upon one of five characteristics: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Foreign nationals arriving or present in the United States may apply for asylum affirmatively with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security after arrival into the country, or they may seek asylum defensively before a Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) immigration judge during removal proceedings. Asylum claims ebbed and flowed in the 1980s and peaked in FY1996. Since FY997, affirmative asylum cases decreased by 79% and defensive asylum claims dropped by 53% by FY2009. Asylum seekers from the People's Republic of China (PRC) dominated both the affirmative and defensive asylum caseload in FY2009. Five of the top 10 source countries of asylum seekers were Western Hemisphere nations in FY2009: Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Colombia. Ethiopia was the only African nation that was a top source country for asylum seekers in FY2009. Despite the general decrease in asylum cases since the enactment of the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA ) in 1996, data analysis of six selected countries (the PRC, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Mexico) suggests that conditions in the source countries are likely the driving force behind asylum seekers."
CRS Report for Congress, R41753