Judge Stephen M. Ruhle

FY 2014 - 2019, El Paso - Epd Immigration Court

Judge Ruhle was appointed as an immigration judge in March 2008. Hereceived a bachelor of arts degree in 1990 from the State University ofNew York at Albany and a juris doctorate in 1993 from Albany LawSchool. From September 1997 to March 2008, Judge Ruhle worked as deputychief counsel and assistant chief counsel, Office of the Chief Counsel,U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), DHS, in El Paso, Texas. From 1994 to 1997, he served in the U.S. Navy as a staff judge advocateand judge advocate. In 1998, Judge Ruhle joined the U.S. Army Reserveand continues to serve as a judge advocate. He is a member of theNew York, Florida, and Colorado bars.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Ruhle decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2014 through 2019. During this period, Judge Ruhle is recorded as deciding 231 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 48, gave no conditional grants, and denied 183. Converted to percentage terms, Ruhle denied 79.2 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 20.8 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Ruhle'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 Ruhle's denial rate of 79.2 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 63.1 percent of asylum claims. In the El Paso - Epd Immigration Court where Judge Ruhle was based, judges there denied asylum 89.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Ruhle 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 Ruhle here receives a rank of 202. That is 201 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 254 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 Ruhle, 58.9% 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 Ruhle, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from El Salvador. Individuals from this nation made up 15.6 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Ruhle were: Honduras (12.6 %), Mexico (11.7%), Guatemala (9.5%), Cuba (7.8%). 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 (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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