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Judge Jankhana Desai
FY 2018 - 2023, Los Angeles Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Jankhana Desai to begin hearing cases inDecember 2017. Judge Desai earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1993 from the Universityof California, Irvine and a Master of Arts degree in 1995 from the California State University,Fullerton. Under the Berkeley-Harvard Law Degree Program, Judge Desai earned her JurisDoctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 2001, andcompleted her third year at Harvard Law School. From 2015 to 2017, she served as anadministrative law judge for the New York State Department of Health, in New York, N.Y.From 2011 to 2013, she served as an administrative law judge for the State of California, Officeof Administrative Hearings, in Los Angeles. From 2011 to 2012, Judge Desai served as anadjunct professor of law at the Western State College of Law, in Fullerton, Calif., and from 2010to 2011, as an administrative law judge pro tem for the State of California, Office ofAdministrative Hearings, in Los Angeles. From 2005 to 2009, she served as a deputy districtattorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, in Los Angeles. Judge Desai is amember of the California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York State Bars.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Desai were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Desai decided 268 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 109, granted 26 other types of relief, and denied relief to 133. Converted to percentage terms, Desai denied 49.6 percent and granted 50.4 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Desai's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Desai's denial rate of 49.6 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Los Angeles Immigration Court where Judge Desai decided these cases denied asylum 66.8 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Desai'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.

Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Why Do Denial Rates Vary Among Judges?

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 Desai, 12.3% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation


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 Desai came from El Salvador. Individuals from this country made up 22.0% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Desai were: China (17.2%), Guatemala (15.7%), Honduras (8.2%), Mexico (8.2%). 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%).

Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.