Published Oct 26, 2022
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.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Park were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2017 through 2022. During this period, court records show that Judge Park decided 480 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 216, granted 13 other types of relief, and denied relief to 251. Converted to percentage terms, Park denied 52.3 percent and granted 47.7 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Park's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Park's denial rate of 52.3 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 63.8 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the San Francisco Immigration Court where Judge Park decided these cases denied asylum 32.1 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Park'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 (83%) are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Park, 14.8% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 16.7% 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 Park came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 31.5% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Park were: Mexico (22.7%), El Salvador (17.1%), Honduras (13.1%), India (4.6%). 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 (18.2%), Guatemala (16.0%), Honduras (14.6%), Mexico (10.5%), China (7.5%), India (4.5%), Cuba (2.5%), Venezuela (2.1%), Ecuador (2.1%), Nicaragua (1.9%), Haiti (1.7%), Cameroon (1.5%), Nepal (1.2%).