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Judge Lourdes Martinez-Esquivel
FY 2018 - 2023, Miami Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Judge Martinez-Esquivel was appointed to be an immigration judge in April 2009. She received a bachelor of science in business administration in 1983 from Georgetown University; a master of business administration in 1987 from Florida International University; and a juris doctorate in 1990 from Boston College Law School. From 1997 to 2009, Judge Lourdes Martinez-Esquivel worked as managing attorney with the Law Office of Lourdes Martinez-Esquivel. During this time, from 1999 to 2003, she also served as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. From 2006 to 2007, Judge Martinez-Esquivel served as president for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, South Florida Chapter. She is board certified as a specialist in immigration and nationality law by the Florida Bar. From 2004 to 2005, Judge Martinez-Esquivel also served as chairperson for the Immigration and Nationality Law Certification Committee of the Florida Bar, where she served as a member from 2003 to 2007.From 1992 to 1997, Judge Martinez-Esquivel was in private practice in Miami. From 1990 to1992, she worked as a judicial law clerk and attorney advisor at the Miami Immigration Court. Judge Martinez-Esquivel is a member of the Florida Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Martinez-Esquivel were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Martinez-Esquivel decided 913 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 61, granted 13 other types of relief, and denied relief to 839. Converted to percentage terms, Martinez-Esquivel denied 91.9 percent and granted 8.1 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Martinez-Esquivel'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 Martinez-Esquivel's denial rate of 91.9 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Miami Immigration Court where Judge Martinez-Esquivel decided these cases denied asylum 85.3 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Martinez-Esquivel'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 Martinez-Esquivel, 11.4% 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 Martinez-Esquivel came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 37.6% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Martinez-Esquivel were: Honduras (24.2%), Haiti (11.2%), El Salvador (8.4%), Nicaragua (3.6%). 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.