Judge William Van Wyke

FY 2015 - 2020, New York Immigration Court

Judge Van Wyke was appointed as an Immigration Judge in March 1995 in New York City. He was re-assigned to the Immigration Court in New York in June 2002, following a six-year assignment as an Immigration Judge in York, Pennsylvania. Judge Van Wyke received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1972. He received a Master of Arts degree in 1974, and a Juris Doctorate in 1977, both from the University of Michigan. From 1993 to 1995, he worked as an attorney with the Law Office of Thomas Elliott in Washington, DC. From 1986 to 1993, he was in private practice in Washington, DC, focusing primarily on immigration law and international human rights issues. From 1983 to 1985, Judge Van Wyke served as staff attorney for the Central American Refugee Center, also in Washington, DC. He also served 3 years as litigation director for East Arkansas Legal Services. In 1990, he worked as a law student supervisor at AYUDA, Inc., in Washington, DC. From 1992 to 1995, Judge Van Wyke also served as an adjunct professor at Washington College of Law, American University, where he taught refugee and asylum law. He is a member of the Tennessee Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Van Wyke decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge Van Wyke is recorded as deciding 141 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 100, gave no conditional grants, and denied 41. Converted to percentage terms, Van Wyke denied 29.1 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 70.9 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Van Wyke'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 Van Wyke's denial rate of 29.1 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent of asylum claims. In the New York Immigration Court where Judge Van Wyke was based, judges there denied asylum 32.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Van Wyke 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 Van Wyke here receives a rank of 469. That is 468 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 57 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 (88%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Van Wyke, 4.3% 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 Van Wyke, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from China. Individuals from this nation made up 59.6 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Van Wyke were: El Salvador (4.3 %), Ivory Coast (Cote D' (3.5%), Albania (2.8%), India (2.8%). 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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