Judge J. Traci Hong

FY 2013 - 2018, Los Angeles Immigration Court

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Hong in April 2013. Judge Hong received a bachelor of arts degree in 1992 from The University of Texas at Austin and a juris doctorate in 1995 from The University of Texas School of Law. From February 2011 to April 2013, she served as a senior policy advisor for the Department of Homeland Security, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Washington, D.C. From March 2007 to January 2011, Judge Hong served as counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. From June 2003 to March 2007, she worked for the Asian American Justice Center in Washington, D.C. as an immigration staff attorney and the immigration program director. From January 2000 to May 2003, Judge Hong was a staff attorney for the American Immigration Law Foundation in Washington, D.C. From August 1995 to December 1999, she practiced immigration law with the law firm of Tidwell Swaim & Associates, P.C., in Dallas. Judge Hong is a member of the State Bar of Texas.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Hong decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2013 through 2018. During this period, Judge Hong is recorded as deciding 104 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted 47, gave no conditional grants, and denied 57. Converted to percentage terms, Hong denied 54.8 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 45.2 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Hong'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 Hong's denial rate of 54.8 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 57.6 percent of asylum claims. In the Los Angeles Immigration Court where Judge Hong was based, judges there denied asylum 65.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Hong 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 Hong here receives a rank of 229. That is 228 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 118 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
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 Hong, 6.7% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 20% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Nationality

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 Hong, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before her came from Mexico. Individuals from this nation made up 20.2 % of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Hong were: El Salvador (16.3 %), Guatemala (16.3%), China (14.4%), Honduras (8.7%). 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%).

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