Judge Thomas C. Roepke

FY 2014 - 2019, El Paso Immigration Court

Judge Roepke was appointed as an Immigration Judge in February 2005. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morningside College in 1972, and a furls Doctorate from Texas Tech University in 1976. Judge Roepke served as a special assistant U.S. attorney while working for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Chief Counsel, in El Paso, from 1988 to 2005. He worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas in Houston from 1987 to 1988. Judge Roepke served as an assistant district attorney from 1976 to1987 for the 34`h District of Texas in El Paso. He is a member of the Texas State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Roepke decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2014 through 2019. During this period, Judge Roepke is recorded as deciding 159 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 7, gave no conditional grants, and denied 152. Converted to percentage terms, Roepke denied 95.6 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 4.4 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Roepke'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 Roepke's denial rate of 95.6 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 63.1 percent of asylum claims. In the El Paso Immigration Court where Judge Roepke was based, judges there denied asylum 93.1 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Roepke can also be ranked compared to each of the 456 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 456 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 456 represented the lowest - Judge Roepke here receives a rank of 42. That is 41 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 414 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 (89%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Roepke, 16.4% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 19% 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 Roepke, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Mexico. Individuals from this nation made up 81.8 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Roepke were: Guatemala (3.8 %), Honduras (3.1%), El Salvador (2.5%), China (1.3%). See Figure 4.

In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum seekers, in descending order of frequency, were El Salvador (17.3%), China (13.5%), Honduras (13.3%), Guatemala (13.0%), Mexico (12.1%), India (3.8%), Haiti (2.1%), Nepal (1.6%), Cuba (1.2%), Eritrea (1.1%), Cameroon (1.1%), Bangladesh (1.0%), Ecuador (0.9%).

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