Judge Wayne K. Houser, Jr.

FY 2015 - 2020, Atlanta Immigration Court

Judge Houser was appointed as an Immigration Judge in April 2002. Prior to his appointment to the Immigration Court in Atlanta in May 2004, he served as an Immigration Judge in the Immigration Court in New Orleans, LA. Judge Houser received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976 from the University of Tennessee, and a Juris Doctorate in 1978 from Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis). He served as a referee judge for the State of Tennessee in Knoxville from September 1993 until April 2002. Judge Houser was in private practice in Knoxville from 1985 to 1993. From 1982 to 1984, he served as Assistant State Attorney General for Tennessee. Judge Houser worked as a judicial law clerk in the Court of Criminal Appeals for the State of Tennessee from 1981 to 1982. He is a member of the Tennessee Bar, the Knoxville Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Houser decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge Houser is recorded as deciding 105 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 5, gave no conditional grants, and denied 100. Converted to percentage terms, Houser denied 95.2 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 4.8 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Houser'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 Houser's denial rate of 95.2 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent of asylum claims. In the Atlanta Immigration Court where Judge Houser was based, judges there denied asylum 96.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Houser can also be ranked compared to each of the 526 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 526 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 526 represented the lowest - Judge Houser here receives a rank of 53. That is 52 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 473 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
Representation

If an asylum seeker is not represented by an attorney, almost all (88%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Houser, 12.4% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 19% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Nationality

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 Houser, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Guatemala. Individuals from this nation made up 24.8 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Houser were: Honduras (19 %), El Salvador (18.1%), Mexico (12.4%), Gambia (2.9%). See Figure 4.

In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum seekers, in descending order of frequency, were El Salvador (18.1%), Guatemala (15.1%), Honduras (14.7%), Mexico (11.8%), China (10.2%), India (3.7%), Cuba (2.5%), Haiti (1.8%), Cameroon (1.5%), Venezuela (1.3%), Nepal (1.3%), Nicaragua (1.1%), Bangladesh (1.0%).

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