Judge Saul Greenstein

FY 2012 - 2017, Houston - Detained Immigration Court

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Greenstein in October 2010. Judge Greenstein received a bachelor of arts degree in 1994 from Brooklyn College and a juris doctorate in 1997 from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. From 2004 to October 2010, he worked as a trial attorney, Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, D.C. From 1999 to 2004, Judge Greenstein was an assistant chief counsel, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Newark, N.J. From 1997 to 1999, he served in the Attorney General's Honors Program, DOJ, Executive Office for Immigration Review, both in the Newark Immigration Court as a judicial law clerk and in the New York Immigration Court as an attorney advisor. Judge Greenstein is a member of the New Jersey and New York State Bars.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Greenstein decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2012 through 2017. During this period, Judge Greenstein is recorded as deciding 241 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 33, gave no conditional grants, and denied 208. Converted to percentage terms, Greenstein denied 86.3 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 13.7 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Greenstein'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 Greenstein's denial rate of 86.3 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 52.8 percent of asylum claims. In the Houston - Detained Immigration Court where Judge Greenstein was based, judges there denied asylum 92 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Greenstein can also be ranked compared to each of the 293 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 293 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 293 represented the lowest - Judge Greenstein here receives a rank of 65. That is 64 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 228 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 (91%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Greenstein, 60.2% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 20.2% 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 Greenstein, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Mexico. Individuals from this nation made up 27.8 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Greenstein were: El Salvador (16.6 %), Honduras (12.4%), Nigeria (9.5%), Guatemala (3.3%). 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 (23.4%), El Salvador (11.7%), Mexico (11.0%), Honduras (8.3%), Guatemala (8.2%), India (2.9%), Nepal (2.0%), Haiti (2.0%), Ethiopia (1.7%), Somalia (1.4%), Eritrea (1.4%), Egypt (1.2%), Cameroon (1.0%).

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