Published Oct 19, 2023
Judge DeVitto was appointed as an immigration judge in March 2008. Hereceived a bachelor of business administration degree in 1978 fromEastern Michigan University and a juris doctorate in 1990 from WesternState University College of Law. From 2003 to March 2008, Judge DeVittoserved as attorney for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, DHS,in Tucson, Arizona. During this time, he worked as a special assistantU.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney?s Office for the District ofArizona. From 1998 to 2003, he served as sector counsel for the formerImmigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Tucson. From 1996 to1998, Judge DeVitto was an assistant district counsel with the formerINS in Los Angeles. From 1995 to 1996, he served as deputy districtattorney with the District Attorney?s Office of Madera County,California. From 1990 to 1995, Judge DeVitto was in private practiceand, during that time, also served as a law clerk with the DistrictAttorney?s Office in Orange County, California. In 1989, Judge DeVittoworked with Orange County Fair Housing, U.S. Department of Housing andUrban Development. From 1981 to 1987, he worked as a deputy sheriffwith the Los Angeles County Sheriff?s Department. Judge DeVitto is amember of the California Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge DeVitto were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge DeVitto decided 387 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 96, granted 4 other types of relief, and denied relief to 287. Converted to percentage terms, DeVitto denied 74.2 percent and granted 25.8 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge DeVitto's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge DeVitto's denial rate of 74.2 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the San Diego Immigration Court where Judge DeVitto decided these cases denied asylum 73.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge DeVitto'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 DeVitto, 40.8% 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 DeVitto came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 34.1% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge DeVitto were: Honduras (11.1%), Mexico (11.1%), El Salvador (10.1%), Russia (6.5%). 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%).