Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Jesus Clemente as an immigration judge in April 2010. Judge Clemente received a bachelor of arts degree in 1982 from Hunter College, City University of New York, and a juris doctorate in 1987 from Albany Law School of Union University and a bachelor of arts degree in 2006 from San Diego State University. Judge Clemente graduated in 1989 from the Army Officer Engineer School, Fort Belvoir, Va., received a diploma in 2002 from the Air Command and Staff College, Montgomery, Ala., and graduated in 2008 from the Air War College, Montgomery, Ala. From 2008 to April 2010, Judge Clemente served as an assistant chief counsel with the Department of Homeland Security in Miami, Fla. From 2003 to 2008, Judge Clemente served as an assistant chief counsel with the Department of Homeland Security in San Diego, Calif. From 1995 to 2003, he served as an assistant district counsel with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Diego. From 1993 to 1995, Judge Clemente worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, in Washington, D.C. From 1989 to 1993, he served as a prosecutor in the U.S. Air Force. From 1987 to 1988, Judge Clemente served as defense counsel for the Legal Aid Society of New York, Criminal Appeals Division, in New York, N.Y. Since 1993, Judge Clemente has served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and is currently a Colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. From 1981 to 1989, he served in the U.S. Army as a platoon leader and engineer officer. He is a member of the New Jersey State Bar and the New York State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Clemente were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Clemente decided 326 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 43, granted 101 other types of relief, and denied relief to 182. Converted to percentage terms, Clemente denied 55.8 percent and granted 44.2 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Clemente's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Clemente's denial rate of 55.8 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 Clemente decided these cases denied asylum 73.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Clemente'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 Clemente, 55.8% 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 Clemente came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 35.0% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Clemente were: Honduras (13.8%), El Salvador (12.6%), Mexico (12.6%), Iraq (4.3%). 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%).