Judge Robert L. Powell
FY 2013 - 2018, Los Fresnos Immigration Court
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Powell in August 2010. Judge Powell received a bachelor of arts degree in 1970 from Tulane University and a juris doctorate in 1973 from St. Mary's University School of Law. From 2001 to August 2010, he worked as an administrative judge for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in San Antonio, Texas. From 1998 to 2001, Judge Powell was an administrative law attorney for the U.S. Department of the Army. From 1996 to 1998, he was an administrative law attorney for the Panama Canal Commission, where, from 1977 to 1982, he worked in the same capacity. From 1982 to 1996, Judge Powell was in private practice. From 1973 to 1977, he served in the U.S. Army, Judge Advocate General Corps. Judge Powell is a member of the State Bar of Texas.
Deciding Asylum Cases
Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied
Detailed data on Judge Powell decisions were examined for the period covering
fiscal years 2013 through 2018. During this period, Judge
Powell is recorded as deciding 666 asylum claims on their merits. Of these,
he granted 111, gave no conditional grants, and denied 555.
Converted to percentage terms, Powell denied 83.3 percent and granted (including
conditional grants) 16.7 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Powell's
denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.
Compared to Judge Powell's denial rate of 83.3 percent, nationally
during this same period, immigration court judges denied 57.6 percent
of asylum claims. In the Los Fresnos Immigration Court where Judge Powell
was based, judges there denied asylum 81.1 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)
Judge Powell can also be ranked compared to each of the 347 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 347 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 347
represented the lowest - Judge Powell here receives a rank of 112. That is 111
judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 235 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.
Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation
If an asylum seeker is not represented by an
attorney, almost all (91%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a
significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful.
In the case of Judge Powell, 57.2% were not
represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole,
about 20% 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.
Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
For Judge Powell, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came
from Honduras. Individuals from this nation made up 16.2 % of his caseload.
Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Powell were:
Eritrea (13.4 %), Mexico (12.2%), El Salvador (12%), Guatemala (9.3%).
See Figure 4.
In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum
seekers, in descending order of frequency, were China (18.5%), El Salvador (14.7%), Mexico (12.0%), Honduras (10.9%), Guatemala (10.3%), India (3.2%), Haiti (2.1%), Nepal (1.8%), Eritrea (1.3%), Ethiopia (1.3%), Somalia (1.2%), Cameroon (1.0%), Bangladesh (1.0%).