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The Texas Tribune
July 31, 2011

Border Asylum Judges Deny Most Petitions
By Julian Aguilar

The Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez has sought political asylum in the United States since June 2008, when he and his teenage son fled the small town of Ascensión, Chihuahua, in the pre-dawn hours and arrived at the Antelope Wells, N.M., border crossing. Threatened by the Mexican military for his reporting on its alleged human rights abuses, Gutiérrez says returning to his native land is a certain death sentence. Whether an asylum judge will agree, however, is far less clear. A new analysis of the decisions of United States immigration court judges finds that at least two of the five immigration judges in El Paso, where Gutiérrez’s case is being considered, have a far higher denial rate than the national average. The report, by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan center based at Syracuse University that tracks the enforcement activities of the federal government, analyzed the decisions of 265 immigration judges across the country who have ruled in at least 100 political asylum cases in the last five years. On average, over that period, immigration judges rejected 53.2 percent of asylum applications. But William L. Abbott and Thomas C. Roepke, both judges in El Paso, had a combined rejection rate of 83.3 percent in 346 cases — most from Mexico and Central America — decided between 2006 and July 2011. Roepke denied asylum requests in 96.7 percent of his cases — the third-highest rejection rate among the judges included in the Syracuse report. The denial rate for Gutiérrez’s judge, Robert Hough, was not determined because he has decided less than 100 cases. Earlier this year, Gutiérrez’s case was postponed until May 2012. The long delay is indicative of another problem highlighted in the Syracuse study: the system is overwhelmed, resulting in a significant backlog of cases.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2011
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