Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Chait in November 2011. Judge Chait received a bachelor of arts degree in 1984 from The George Washington University; a master of social work degree in 1996 from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, School of Social Work; and his juris doctorate in 1987 from the University of Miami School of Law. From September 2007 to November 2011, he served as the St. Paul chief counsel, Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in Bloomington, Minn. From 2005 to 2008, Judge Chait also served as chief of training for OPLA. From 2002 to 2005, he served as acting director of the Legal Division for OPLA at the DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga. From 1995 to 2002, he was an assistant district counsel for the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). From 1993 to 1995, Judge Chait was an asylum officer for INS. From 1990 to 1993, he was an attorney for the U.S. Catholic Conference, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. From 1989 to 1990, Judge Chait was a judicial law clerk for Judge Lawrence D. Smith, Superior Court of New Jersey. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Social Work at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Judge Chait is a member of the New Jersey State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Chait were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Chait decided 369 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 38, granted 9 other types of relief, and denied relief to 322. Converted to percentage terms, Chait denied 87.3 percent and granted 12.7 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Chait's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Chait's denial rate of 87.3 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Miami - Krome Immigration Court where Judge Chait decided these cases denied asylum 89.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Chait'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 Chait, 49.1% 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 Chait came from Cuba. Individuals from this country made up 18.7% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Chait were: Haiti (11.4%), Venezuela (11.4%), Guatemala (10.0%), Honduras (9.8%). 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%).