Judge Rodger C. Harris

FY 2015 - 2020, Arlington Immigration Court

Rodger C. Harris was appointed as an immigration judge in January 2007. He received a bachelor of arts degree in 1976 from the University of South Florida, Tampa; a master of business administration degree in 1983 from the National University, San Diego; a juris doctorate in 1987 from the National University School of Law, San Diego; and a master of judicial studies degree in 2006 from the National Judicial College, University of Nevada, Reno. From 1967 to 1970 and 1977 to December 2006, Judge Harris served in the U.S. Marine Corps. As an officer in the Marine Corps, Judge Harris first served as a naval aviator and then in varying legal and judicial positions at various locations. Judge Harris is a member of the California and Ohio bars.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Harris decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge Harris is recorded as deciding 235 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 22, gave no conditional grants, and denied 213. Converted to percentage terms, Harris denied 90.6 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 9.4 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Harris'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 Harris's denial rate of 90.6 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent of asylum claims. In the Arlington Immigration Court where Judge Harris was based, judges there denied asylum 56.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Harris 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 Harris here receives a rank of 107. That is 106 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 419 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
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 Harris, 23.8% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 19% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Nationality

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 Harris, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from El Salvador. Individuals from this nation made up 40 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Harris were: Honduras (13.6 %), Guatemala (12.3%), Mexico (4.3%), Ethiopia (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 (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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