Judge Deborah K. Goodwin

FY 2015 - 2020, Miami Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Deborah K. Goodwin to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Goodwin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 from Wilson College and a Juris Doctor in 2000 from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law. From 2015 to January 2017, she served as an associate legal advisor for the District Court Litigation Division, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in Washington, D.C. From 2007 through 2015, she served as an associate counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS, in San Francisco. From 2002 through 2007, she served as an assistant chief counsel for ICE, DHS, in San Francisco. Judge Goodwin is a member of the Florida Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Goodwin decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge Goodwin is recorded as deciding 557 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted 50, gave no conditional grants, and denied 507. Converted to percentage terms, Goodwin denied 91 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 9 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Goodwin'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 Goodwin's denial rate of 91 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent of asylum claims. In the Miami Immigration Court where Judge Goodwin was based, judges there denied asylum 88.5 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Goodwin 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 Goodwin here receives a rank of 101. That is 100 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 425 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 Goodwin, 8.1% 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 Goodwin, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before her came from Honduras. Individuals from this nation made up 37 % of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Goodwin were: Guatemala (33.9 %), El Salvador (12.2%), Haiti (7.9%), Mexico (2.7%). See Figure 4.

In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum seekers, in descending order of frequency, were 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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