Judge Thomas C. Roepke
FY 2009 - 2014, El Paso Immigration Court
Judge Roepke was appointed as an Immigration Judge in February 2005. He received a Bachelor
of Arts degree from Morningside College in 1972, and a furls Doctorate from Texas Tech
University in 1976. Judge Roepke served as a special assistant U.S. attorney while working for
the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Chief Counsel, in El Paso, from 1988
to 2005. He worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas in Houston
from 1987 to 1988. Judge Roepke served as an assistant district attorney from 1976 to1987 for
the 34`h District of Texas in El Paso. He is a member of the Texas State Bar.
Deciding Asylum Cases
Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied
Detailed data on Judge Roepke decisions were examined for the period covering
fiscal years 2009 through the first nine months of 2014. During this period, Judge
Roepke is recorded as deciding 196 asylum claims on their merits. Of these,
he granted 2, gave no conditional grants, and denied 194.
Converted to percentage terms, Roepke denied 99 percent and granted (including
conditional grants) 1 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Roepke's
denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.
(Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Roepke's denial rate of 99 percent, nationally
during this same period, immigration court judges denied 48.5 percent
of asylum claims. In the El Paso Immigration Court where Judge Roepke
was based, judges there denied asylum 95.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)
Judge Roepke can also be ranked compared to each of the 270 individual immigration judges
serving during this period who rendered at least one hundred decisions in a city's immigration court. If judges were ranked
from 1 to 270 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 270
represented the lowest - Judge Roepke here receives a rank of 3. That is 2
judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 267 denied asylum at the same
rate or less often. Ranks are tallied separately for each immigration court. Should a judge serve on more than one court
during this period, separate ranks would be assigned in any court that the judge rendered at least 100 asylum decisions in.
Why Do Denial Rates Vary Among Judges?
Denial rates reflect in part the differing composition of cases assigned to
different immigration judges. For example, being represented in court and the nationality
of the asylum seeker appear to often impact decision outcome. Decisions also appear to
reflect in part the personal perspective that the judge brings to the bench.
Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation
If an asylum seeker is not represented by an
attorney, almost all (89%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a
significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful.
In the case of Judge Roepke, 54.6% were not
represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole,
about 14.6% of asylum seekers are not represented.
Asylum seekers are a
diverse group. Over one hundred different nationalities had at least one hundred
individuals claiming asylum decided during this period. As might be expected,
immigration courts located in different parts of the country tend to have
proportionately larger shares from some countries than from others. And, given
the required legal grounds for a successful asylum claim, asylum seekers
from some nations tend to be more successful than others.
Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
For Judge Roepke, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came
from Mexico. Individuals from this nation made up 41.3 % of his caseload.
Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Roepke were:
El Salvador (9.2 %), Honduras (7.1%), India (6.1%), Guatemala (5.6%).
See Figure 4.
In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum
seekers, in descending order of frequency, were China (28.5%), El Salvador (6.8%), Mexico (5.9%), Guatemala (5.7%), Haiti (3.1%), Honduras (2.9%), India (2.7%), Ethiopia (2.5%), Colombia (2.2%), Nepal (2.1%), Indonesia (1.5%), Eritrea (1.5%), Venezuela (1.5%).