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The Buffalo News
January 3, 2015

Immigration judges in Batavia grant less than 20 percent of asylum claims
By Phil Fairbanks

When Maj. Jan Mohamad Arash and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar make their pleas for freedom next week in a Batavia courtroom, the Afghan soldiers will be appealing to federal judges with a record of denying such requests. At a time when immigration judges across the country grant half of all asylum claims, judges at the Federal Detention Center in Batavia grant less than 20 percent, according to new data from Syracuse University. The judges, both former government lawyers in the immigration system, also rank among the top 50 when their asylum denial rates are compared to 268 other judges across the country. What does this mean to Arash and Aminyar, two soldiers who fear for their lives if they’re sent back to Afghanistan? And what does it say about an asylum review system that experts call “refugee roulette”? “They’re very difficult cases to win,” Julie Kruger, a Buffalo immigration lawyer, said of the asylum cases being heard in Batavia. “I’m actually limiting the number of cases I take now because I don’t want to take on clients I can’t help.” Immigration lawyers say the high denial rates in Batavia – and how they differ from other courts in the nation – are well known to anyone who appears before Judges Steven J. Connelly and John B. Reid. The reasons, according to the Syracuse analysis, range from the type of asylum cases they hear to the “personal perspective” each of the judges brings to the bench.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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