Judge Theresa Holmes-Simmons

FY 2007 - 2012, New York Immigration Court

Judge Holmes-Simmons was appointed as an Immigration Judge in November 1998. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1985 from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and a Juris Doctorate in 1988 from Rutgers University School of Law. Judge Holmes-Simmons served as an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York from 1996 to 1998. She worked as a special prosecutor and assistant attorney general, New York State Attorney General's Office in New York, from 1994 to 1996. Judge Holmes-Simmons served as an assistant district attorney with the New York County District Attorney's Office from 1988 to 1994. She is a member of both the New York and New Jersey Bars.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Holmes-Simmons decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2007 through 2012 During this period, Judge Holmes-Simmons is recorded as deciding 524 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted 456, gave no conditional grants, and denied 68. Converted to percentage terms, Holmes-Simmons denied 13 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 87 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Holmes-Simmons's denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Holmes-Simmons's denial rate of 13 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 50.6 percent of asylum claims. In the New York Immigration Court where Judge Holmes-Simmons was based, judges there denied asylum 23.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Holmes-Simmons can also be ranked compared to each of the 273 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 273 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 273 represented the lowest - Judge Holmes-Simmons here receives a rank of 269. That is 268 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 4 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.

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Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation

If an asylum seeker is not represented by an attorney, almost all (87%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Holmes-Simmons, 3.6% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 12.4% 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.

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Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality

For Judge Holmes-Simmons, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before her came from China. Individuals from this nation made up 62 % of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Holmes-Simmons were: Indonesia (3.2 %), Guinea (3.1%), Soviet Union (2.9%), Ivory Coast (Cote D' (2.5%). 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 (25.9%), El Salvador (6.5%), Haiti (6.3%), Guatemala (5.6%), Colombia (4.0%), Mexico (3.2%), India (2.5%), Ethiopia (2.3%), Indonesia (2.2%), Venezuela (2.2%), Honduras (2.2%), Albania (1.5%), Nepal (1.5%).

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