Judge Paul A. McCloskey

FY 2016 - 2021, Arlington Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Paul A. McCloskey to begin hearing cases in October2018. Judge McCloskey earned a Bachelor of Science in 1996 from Towson State University anda Juris Doctor in 1999 from the University of Maryland School of Law. From 2002 to 2018, heserved in several positions with the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration andCustoms Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in Washington, D.C. From 2016 to2018, he was an associate deputy principal legal advisor for Field Legal Operations. From 2014to 2016, he was deputy chief of the Criminal Law Section. From 2010 to 2014 he was anassociate legal advisor in the Criminal Law Section. From 2008 to 2010, he was an associatelegal advisor in the Enforcement Law Division, serving on a detail as a trial attorney in theDomestic Security Section, Criminal Division, Department of Justice. From 2002 to 2008, hewas an assistant chief counsel in Baltimore and New Orleans. From 2001 to 2002, he was asenior immigration officer in the Office of Congressional Relations with the former Immigrationand Naturalization Service (INS) in Washington, D.C. From 1999 to 2001, he was a presidentialmanagement intern with INS in Washington, D.C. Judge McCloskey is a member of theMaryland State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge McCloskey decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2016 through 2021. During this period, Judge McCloskey is recorded as deciding 553 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 36, gave no conditional grants, and denied 517. Converted to percentage terms, McCloskey denied 93.5 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 6.5 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge McCloskey's denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge McCloskey's denial rate of 93.5 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 67.6 percent of asylum claims. In the Arlington Immigration Court where Judge McCloskey was based, judges there denied asylum 59.1 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge McCloskey 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 McCloskey here receives a rank of 78. That is 77 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 480 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.

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Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation

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 McCloskey, 5.6% 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.

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Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality

For Judge McCloskey, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from El Salvador. Individuals from this nation made up 51.9 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge McCloskey were: Guatemala (17.7 %), Honduras (17%), Ethiopia (2.2%), Mexico (1.6%). 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 (18.7%), 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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