Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General William Barr appointed Thomas M. Ayze to begin hearing cases in May 2019.Judge Ayze earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1984 from the University of Florida and a Juris Doctorin 1988 from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He retired as a lieutenant coloneland judge advocate from the U.S. Air Force in 2010. From 2008 to 2019, he served as anassistant chief counsel, Office of the Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement,Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in Miami, Florida. From 2007 to 2008, he served as afraud, detection and national security immigration officer with U.S. Citizenship and ImmigrationServices (USCIS), DHS, in Miami, Florida. From 2003 to 2007, he served as an asylum officerwith USCIS, DHS, in Miami, Florida. From 1988 to 2010, he was judge advocate in the U.S. AirForce in the following locations: Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California; Clark Air Base(AB), Philippines; Tyndall AFB, Florida; H.Q. Air Reserve Personnel Center, Denver, Colorado;Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Yokota AB, Japan; Hurlburt Field, Florida; Air Force Claims ServiceCenter, Ohio; and Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on active duty till 2002, and later as reservistfrom 2003 to 2010. Judge Ayze is a member of the Colorado Bar and Florida Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Ayze were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Ayze decided 1025 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 90, granted 1 other types of relief, and denied relief to 934. Converted to percentage terms, Ayze denied 91.1 percent and granted 8.9 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Ayze's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Ayze's denial rate of 91.1 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Miami Immigration Court where Judge Ayze decided these cases denied asylum 85.3 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Ayze'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 Ayze, 5.5% 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 Ayze came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 31.3% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Ayze were: Honduras (20.9%), Brazil (11.9%), El Salvador (9.1%), Nicaragua (8.3%). 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%).