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Judge Kevin W. Riley
FY 2018 - 2023, Van Nuys Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Judge Riley was appointed as an immigration judge in November 2009. He received a bachelor of arts degree in 1992 from the University of Oregon, a juris doctorate in 1995 from UCLA School of Law and a masters of business administration degree in 2005 from CaliforniaState University. From 2004 to November 2009, Judge Riley served as deputy chief counsel,ICE, DHS, in Los Angeles. From 2003 to 2004, he served as an assistant chief counsel for ICE in Los Angeles. From 1995 to 2003, he served as an assistant district counsel for the former INS Office of Legislative and Public Affairs in Los Angeles. From May to August 1994, he worked as a law clerk for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Las Vegas, Nev. Judge Riley is a member of the State Bar of California.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Riley were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Riley decided 216 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 35, granted 5 other types of relief, and denied relief to 176. Converted to percentage terms, Riley denied 81.5 percent and granted 18.5 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Riley's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Riley's denial rate of 81.5 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Van Nuys Immigration Court where Judge Riley decided these cases denied asylum 50.5 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Riley'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.

Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Why Do Denial Rates Vary Among Judges?

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 Riley, 19.9% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation


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 Riley came from Mexico. Individuals from this country made up 32.4% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Riley were: El Salvador (30.1%), Guatemala (12.0%), India (3.7%), Armenia (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 (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%).

Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.