Judge Arlene E. Dorfman

FY 2014 - 2019, Adelanto Immigration Court

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Dorfman in July 2011. Judge Dorfman received a bachelor of arts degree in 1996 from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a juris doctorate in 2000 from Loyola Law School. From 2009 to 2011, she served as senior attorney for the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in Los Angeles. From March 2003 to 2009, she was an assistant chief counsel for ICE. From 2000 to February 2003, she was an assistant chief counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. Judge Dorfman is a member of the State Bar of Arizona.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Dorfman decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2014 through 2019. During this period, Judge Dorfman is recorded as deciding 130 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted 20, gave no conditional grants, and denied 110. Converted to percentage terms, Dorfman denied 84.6 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 15.4 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Dorfman's denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Dorfman's denial rate of 84.6 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 63.1 percent of asylum claims. In the Adelanto Immigration Court where Judge Dorfman was based, judges there denied asylum 80.5 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Dorfman can also be ranked compared to each of the 456 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 456 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 456 represented the lowest - Judge Dorfman here receives a rank of 152. That is 151 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 304 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.

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Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation

If an asylum seeker is not represented by an attorney, almost all (89%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Dorfman, 64.6% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 19% 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.

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Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality

For Judge Dorfman, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before her came from Mexico. Individuals from this nation made up 44.6 % of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Dorfman were: El Salvador (10 %), Somalia (7.7%), Guatemala (6.9%), Ghana (5.4%). 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 (17.3%), China (13.5%), Honduras (13.3%), Guatemala (13.0%), Mexico (12.1%), India (3.8%), Haiti (2.1%), Nepal (1.6%), Cuba (1.2%), Eritrea (1.1%), Cameroon (1.1%), Bangladesh (1.0%), Ecuador (0.9%).

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