Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Cynthia Gordon to begin hearing cases in August2018. Judge Gordon earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990 from Hamilton College and a JurisDoctor in 1993 from Cornell Law School. From 2007 to 2018, she was assistant chief counsel inthe Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Departmentof Homeland Security in New York, N.Y. From 2001 to 2007, she was special assistant attorneygeneral in the New York State Attorney General’s Office in New York City. From 1994 to 2001,she was assistant district attorney in the New York Country District Attorney’s Office, also inNew York, N.Y. From 1993 to 1994, she was a judicial clerk in the Superior Court of NewJersey in Cape May, N.J. Judge Gordon is a member of the New York and New Jersey StateBars.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Gordon were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Gordon decided 1008 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 647, granted 4 other types of relief, and denied relief to 357. Converted to percentage terms, Gordon denied 35.4 percent and granted 64.6 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Gordon's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Gordon's denial rate of 35.4 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the New York Immigration Court where Judge Gordon decided these cases denied asylum 34.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Gordon'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 Gordon, 3.6% 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 Gordon came from China. Individuals from this country made up 20.5% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Gordon were: El Salvador (17.7%), India (14.3%), Honduras (7.7%), Guatemala (6.3%). 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%).