Published Oct 19, 2023
Judge Brennan was appointed as an Immigration Judge in August 2003. Prior to this appointment, she served on the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Virginia, since July 2000. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marywood College in 1969, a Master of Arts degree from George Washington University in 1972, and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center in 1985 where she has been an adjunct professor of law since 1991. Prior to her appointment, since June 1994, Judge Brennan served in the Department of Justice as the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Justice Programs where she was the chief architect of former Attorney General Janet Reno's community justice agenda. From 1987 to 1994, she worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. She served as a law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 1986 to 1987, and on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia from 1985 to 1986. Judge Brennan was a principal in setting up the DC Mediation Service, the first mediation service in the District of Columbia. Throughout her career, she has been active in pro bono and legal services efforts in the DC community. Judge Brennan is a member of the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and New York Bars and currently serves on the Board of Governors for the DC Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Brennan were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Brennan decided 1038 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 878, granted 12 other types of relief, and denied relief to 148. Converted to percentage terms, Brennan denied 14.3 percent and granted 85.8 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Brennan's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Brennan's denial rate of 14.3 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the New York Immigration Court where Judge Brennan decided these cases denied asylum 34.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Brennan's asylum grant and denial rates are compared with other judges serving on the same court in this table. Note that when an Immigration Judge serves on more than one court during the same period, separate Immigration Judge reports are created for any Court in which the judge rendered at least 100 asylum decisions.
Although denial rates are shaped by each Judge's judicial philosophy, denial rates are also shaped by other factors, such as the types of cases on the Judge's docket, the detained status of immigrant respondents, current immigration policies, and other factors beyond an individual Judge's control. For example, TRAC has previously found that legal representation and the nationality of the asylum seeker are just two factors that appear to impact asylum decision outcomes.
The composition of cases may differ significantly between Immigration Courts in the country. Within a single Court when cases are randomly assigned to judges sitting on that Court, each Judge should have roughly a similar composition of cases given a sufficient number of asylum cases. Then variations in asylum decisions among Judges on the same Immigration Court would appear to reflect, at least in part, the judicial philosophy that the Judge brings to the bench. However, if judges within a Court are assigned to specialized dockets or hearing locations, then case compositions are likely to continue to differ and can contribute to differences in asylum denial rates.
When asylum seekers are not represented by an attorney, almost all of them (80%) are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Brennan, 1.3% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% 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.
The largest group of asylum seekers appearing before Judge Brennan came from China. Individuals from this country made up 36.8% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Brennan were: India (11.1%), Bangladesh (8.7%), El Salvador (7.9%), Nepal (6.2%). 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 (16.6%), Guatemala (15.1%), Honduras (13.8%), Mexico (9.2%), China (6.8%), India (5.1%), Venezuela (3.2%), Ecuador (3.1%), Cuba (2.4%), Nicaragua (2.3%), Brazil (2.0%), Colombia (1.4%), Cameroon (1.4%).