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Judge Daniel J. Santander
FY 2018 - 2023, Laredo Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Santander in October 2010. Judge Santander received a bachelor of science degree in 1990 and a juris doctorate in 1994, both from the University of Arizona. From 2008 to October 2010, he worked as an assistant chief counsel, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tucson, Ariz. During that time, Judge Santander served in the U.S. Army in Tallil, Iraq, as trial counsel and acting brigade judge advocate from 2008 to 2009. From 2007 to 2008, he worked as a judge pro tempore for the Pima County Consolidated Justice Courts, Tucson. During that time, Judge Santander was a union attorney for the Police Officers Research Association of California, Legal Defense Fund, Stockton, Calif., and in private practice in Tucson from 2006 to 2008. From 1999 to 2005, Judge Santander was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona, Criminal Division. In 2003, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve, where he continues to work as judge advocate. From 1996 to 1999, Judge Santander served as an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, Tucson. From 1995 to 1996, he worked as a litigation associate for Linden, Chapa & Fields, Tucson. Judge Santander is a member of the State Bar of Arizona.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Santander were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Santander decided 101 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 53, granted 21 other types of relief, and denied relief to 27. Converted to percentage terms, Santander denied 26.7 percent and granted 73.3 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Santander'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 Santander's denial rate of 26.7 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Laredo Immigration Court where Judge Santander decided these cases denied asylum 70.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Santander'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 Santander, 57.4% 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 Santander came from Cuba. Individuals from this country made up 53.5% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Santander were: Venezuela (29.7%), Honduras (11.9%), Guatemala (3.0%), El Salvador (1.0%). 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.