Judge Margaret M. Kolbe

FY 2015 - 2020, New York Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Judge Kolbe to begin hearing cases in January 2016. Judge Kolbe received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987 from the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Arts degree in 1989 from the University of Cincinnati, and a Juris Doctor in 1996 from the Notre Dame Law School. From 2002 through 2015, Judge Kolbe served as assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, N.Y. From 1996 through 2002, Judge Kolbe served as an attorney advisor for the Board of Immigration Appeals, Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Department of Justice, in Falls Church, Va., and from 1991 through 1993, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, Africa. Judge Kolbe is a member of the Ohio Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Kolbe decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge Kolbe is recorded as deciding 647 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 474, gave no conditional grants, and denied 173. Converted to percentage terms, Kolbe denied 26.7 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 73.3 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Kolbe'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 Kolbe's denial rate of 26.7 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent of asylum claims. In the New York Immigration Court where Judge Kolbe was based, judges there denied asylum 32.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Kolbe can also be ranked compared to each of the 526 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 526 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 526 represented the lowest - Judge Kolbe here receives a rank of 476. That is 475 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 50 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 (88%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Kolbe, 0.9% 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 Kolbe, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from China. Individuals from this nation made up 29.2 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Kolbe were: El Salvador (14.1 %), India (10.4%), Honduras (8.2%), Guatemala (7.1%). 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 (18.1%), Guatemala (15.1%), Honduras (14.7%), Mexico (11.8%), China (10.2%), India (3.7%), Cuba (2.5%), Haiti (1.8%), Cameroon (1.5%), Venezuela (1.3%), Nepal (1.3%), Nicaragua (1.1%), Bangladesh (1.0%).

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