Judge Joseph Y. Park
FY 2016 - 2021, San Francisco Immigration Court
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Joseph Y. Park to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Park earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1994 from Amherst College and a Juris Doctor in 2002 from the University of Washington School of Law. From 2003 to 2017, he worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in San Francisco, serving as an assistant chief counsel, 2003 to 2007; a senior attorney, 2007 to 2011; and a deputy chief counsel, Office of Chief Counsel, 2011 to 2017. From 2002 to 2003, he served as an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice, in San Francisco, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Judge Park is a member of the California State Bar.
Deciding Asylum Cases
Detailed data on Judge Park decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2016 through 2021. During this period, Judge Park is recorded as deciding 316 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 81, gave no conditional grants, and denied 235. Converted to percentage terms, Park denied 74.4 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 25.6 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Park's denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Park's denial rate of 74.4 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 67.6 percent of asylum claims. In the San Francisco Immigration Court where Judge Park was based, judges there denied asylum 36 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Park can also be ranked compared to each of the 558 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 558 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 558 represented the lowest - Judge Park here receives a rank of 310. That is 309 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 248 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.
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 Park, 20.3% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 18.3% 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.
For Judge Park, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Mexico. Individuals from this nation made up 30.7 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Park were: Guatemala (25 %), El Salvador (16.5%), Honduras (12.3%), India (3.2%). 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 (18.7%), Guatemala (16.0%), Honduras (15.0%), Mexico (11.8%), China (8.4%), India (3.8%), Cuba (2.7%), Haiti (1.8%), Venezuela (1.6%), Cameroon (1.5%), Nicaragua (1.2%), Nepal (1.2%), Ecuador (1.1%).
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