Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Julie Nelson to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Nelson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2003 from Biola University and a Juris Doctor in 2006 from California Western School of Law. From December 2014 to January 2017, and previously from 2009 through May 2014, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in Eloy, Az. From June 2014 to November 2014, she served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Steven P. Logan, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. From 2008 through 2009, she served as an attorney advisor for the Los Angeles Immigration Court, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), DOJ. From 2007 through 2008, she served as a judicial law clerk for the San Diego Immigration Court, EOIR, DOJ, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. From 2007 through 2009, she served on the faculty of Biola University as an adjunct professor. Judge Nelson is a member of State Bar of California.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Nelson were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Nelson decided 685 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 159, granted 14 other types of relief, and denied relief to 512. Converted to percentage terms, Nelson denied 74.7 percent and granted 25.2 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Nelson's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Nelson's denial rate of 74.7 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the San Francisco Immigration Court where Judge Nelson decided these cases denied asylum 29.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Nelson'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 Nelson, 34.9% 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 Nelson came from Mexico. Individuals from this country made up 34.7% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Nelson were: Guatemala (16.6%), El Salvador (12.8%), India (7.3%), Honduras (7.2%). 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%).