Judge Deborah K. Goodwin

FY 2013 - 2018, 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

Bar chart of fy

Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Goodwin decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2013 through 2018. During this period, Judge Goodwin is recorded as deciding 377 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted 40, gave no conditional grants, and denied 337. Converted to percentage terms, Goodwin denied 89.4 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 10.6 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 89.4 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 57.6 percent of asylum claims. In the Miami Immigration Court where Judge Goodwin was based, judges there denied asylum 79.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Bar chart of _NAME_

Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Goodwin 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 Goodwin here receives a rank of 68. That is 67 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 279 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.

Pie chart of represented

Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had 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 Goodwin, 7.4% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 20% 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.

Pie chart of nationality

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 39 % of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Goodwin were: Guatemala (35.3 %), El Salvador (15.1%), Haiti (4.2%), Mexico (1.9%). 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%).

TRAC Copyright
Copyright 2018, TRAC Reports, Inc.

TRAC DHS Immigration Web Site