Published Oct 19, 2023
Judge Holmes-Simmons was appointed as an Immigration Judge in November 1998. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1985 from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and a Juris Doctorate in 1988 from Rutgers University School of Law. Judge Holmes-Simmons served as an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York from 1996 to 1998. She worked as a special prosecutor and assistant attorney general, New York State Attorney General's Office in New York, from 1994 to 1996. Judge Holmes-Simmons served as an assistant district attorney with the New York County District Attorney's Office from 1988 to 1994. She is a member of both the New York and New Jersey Bars.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Holmes-Simmons were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Holmes-Simmons decided 372 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 66, granted 4 other types of relief, and denied relief to 302. Converted to percentage terms, Holmes-Simmons denied 81.2 percent and granted 18.8 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Holmes-Simmons's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Holmes-Simmons's denial rate of 81.2 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Charlotte Immigration Court where Judge Holmes-Simmons decided these cases denied asylum 88.7 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Holmes-Simmons'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 Holmes-Simmons, 7.8% 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 Holmes-Simmons came from Honduras. Individuals from this country made up 37.6% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Holmes-Simmons were: El Salvador (33.1%), Guatemala (15.1%), Mexico (8.1%), India (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 (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%).