Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Judge Vernon B. Miles to begin hearing cases in March 2016. Judge Miles earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1980 from the University of Mississippi, a Juris Doctor in 1983 from Howard University School of Law, and a Master of Laws degree in 1992 from the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s School. From 1995 to February 2016, Judge Miles served in various capacities for the U.S. Department of Justice, including: as a trial attorney in the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, Criminal Division, from 2014 to February 2016, in Washington, D.C.; as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Office of the U.S. Attorney from 2003 through 2014, in San Juan, Puerto Rico; as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Office of the U.S. Attorney from 1998 through 2003, in Oxford, Miss.; and as a civil appellate trial attorney in the Office of Immigration Litigation from 1995 through 1998, in Washington, D.C. From 1985 through 1994, he served in various capacities in the U.S. Marine Corps, including: as assistant officer-in-charge, defense attorney and prosecuting attorney in the Naval Legal Service Office Detachment from 1992 through 1994, in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; as deputy staff judge advocate, chief defense counsel and chief legal assistance officer in the 3d Force Service Support Group from 1989 through 1991, in Okinawa, Japan; and as prosecuting attorney, defense attorney and chief legal assistance attorney in the 2d Force Service Support Group from 1985 through 1989, in Cherry Point, N.C. From 1983 to 1985, he served in various capacities for the North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, including as managing attorney and staff attorney. Judge Miles is a member of the Mississippi Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Miles were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Miles decided 477 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 13, granted 2 other types of relief, and denied relief to 462. Converted to percentage terms, Miles denied 96.9 percent and granted 3.1 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Miles's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Miles's denial rate of 96.9 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Memphis Immigration Court where Judge Miles decided these cases denied asylum 83.7 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Miles'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 Miles, 4.4% 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 Miles came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 30.2% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Miles were: El Salvador (23.5%), Honduras (21.0%), Mexico (12.4%), Egypt (4.0%). 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%).