Published Oct 19, 2023
Former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Sarah B. Mazzie to begin hearing cases in April 2017. Judge Mazzie earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 2002 from The University of Wisconsin–Madison and a Juris Doctor in 2006 from the DePaul University College of Law. From 2014 to March 2017, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in Fort Snelling, Minn., and from 2011 to 2014 in Lumpkin, Ga. Judge Mazzie practiced law in Madison, Wis., as a partner in her own firm Gennerman, Mazzie-Briscoe Law Group from 2008 through 2011, and as an associate attorney with Sipsma, Hahn & Brophy from 2007 to 2008. From 2006 through 2007, she served as an immigration attorney for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Judge Mazzie is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Mazzie were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Mazzie decided 568 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 119, granted 6 other types of relief, and denied relief to 443. Converted to percentage terms, Mazzie denied 78.0 percent and granted 22.1 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Mazzie's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Mazzie's denial rate of 78.0 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Bloomington Immigration Court where Judge Mazzie decided these cases denied asylum 70 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Mazzie'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 Mazzie, 29.2% 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 Mazzie came from Mexico. Individuals from this country made up 14.1% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Mazzie were: Guatemala (9.9%), Honduras (9.0%), Cuba (8.5%), El Salvador (8.5%). 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%).