Asylum Outcome Increasingly Depends on Judge Assigned
(05 Dec 2016) The outcome for asylum seekers has become increasingly dependent upon the identity of the immigration judge assigned to hear their case. While judge-to-judge decision disparities have long existed, a detailed comparison of asylum decisions handed down by judges sitting on the same Immigration Court bench showed that differences in judge denial rates have significantly increased during the last six years.

Nationally, the average decision disparity in asylum cases worsened by 27 percent. Substantial increases in decision disparity in particular were seen in the Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Arlington, Baltimore, San Diego, Chicago and Boston courts.

Overall the median level of asylum decision disparity that asylum seekers face is now over 56 percentage points. That is, the particular judge assigned the asylum seeker changed the odds of receiving asylum by over 56 percentage points. For example, while the specific ranges differed by court, the typical asylum seeker might have only a 15 percent change of being granted asylum all the way up to a 71 percent chance depending on the particular judge assigned to hear the case.

The growing backlog of cases has also increased pressures to expedite proceedings. Other administrative courts facing management pressure to quicken case processing have had the unintended consequence of actually increasing decision disparity. It would not be surprising if pressures on immigration judges to speed decision making, along with the reduced time available for training and discussion on the practical challenges in deciding asylum cases, may also have been a source of the increasing asylum decision disparities that has occurred.

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