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Immigration Judge Reports — Asylum

Published: Jun 23, 2009 By: TRAC Source: My Source
"A series of reports by the Transactional Access Records Clearinghouse (TRAC) and others — all based on case-by-case data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — have found extensive disparities in how the nation's Immigration Judges decide the thousands of individual requests for asylum that they process each year. The consistency of these findings, as well as the fact that the disparities are found in most parts of the country and for individuals coming from many different nations, established that the background and experiences of individual Immigration Judges often are more important in how they decide a matter than the underlying facts.

This report card — following up on TRAC's 2006 and 2007 studies — is different. Its purpose is to see if the level of asylum disparity has changed. The study compares the asylum disparity rates that existed both before and after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced a Bush Administration plan in 2006 to improve the operations of the court. Accompanying this report are over 250 detailed reports providing the year-by-year record of individual Immigration Judges.

The central finding of TRAC's new report is that the judge-by-judge asylum disparities in the Immigration Courts are down. Among the fifteen immigration districts that decide the bulk of all asylum matters, the court data showed that disparity rates in ten of them have declined. This change in a significant number of busy districts does not mean that disparities have gone away. There were in fact, some districts where the disparities increased. But these findings indicate that the size of disparities have generally come down in magnitude. For example:

  • Immigration Judges in New York City currently decide one out of every four asylum cases in the United States. In the three years before the AG's directive, the judge-by-judge differences in asylum decisions ranged from one judge who denied almost all (88%) matters to another who denied almost none (7%). In the last few years, this judge-by-judge variation was reduced by almost a quarter.
  • In Miami, the second most active court, the reduction in judge-by-judge decision disparity was even larger. There the range among judges in their denial rates dropped almost two thirds from their previous levels.

TRAC found that the general improvement did not extend to every court. In fact, the data show that in a few Immigration Courts — for example in Cleveland and Orlando — the disparities had increased."

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