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Judge Luis Maldonado
FY 2018 - 2023, Memphis Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General William P. Barr appointed Luis A. Maldonado as an immigration judge inMarch 2020. Judge Maldonado earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2001 from Stetson University and aJuris Doctor in 2004 from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law. From 2016 to 2020,he served as an associate counsel, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department ofHomeland Security (DHS), in Atlanta. From 2011 to 2016, he served as deputy chief counsel,Office of Chief Counsel (OCC), Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA), Immigration andCustoms Enforcement (ICE), DHS, in Orlando. From 2009 to 2011, he served as an associatelegal advisor, National Security Law Section, OPLA, ICE, DHS, in the District of Columbia,during which time, from 2010 to 2011, he also served as special counsel to the deputy principallegal advisor. From 2006 to 2009, he served as an assistant chief counsel, OCC, OPLA, ICE,DHS, in Orlando, during which time, in 2008, he also served as an attorney advisor, Office of theGeneral Counsel, DHS, in the District of Columbia. In 2006, he served as a senior attorney withChild Welfare Legal Services, Department of Children and Families, in Orlando. From 2004 to2006, he served as an immigration staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of the OrangeCounty Bar Association, Inc., in Orlando. Judge Maldonado is a member of the FloridaState Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Maldonado were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Maldonado decided 147 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 42, granted 4 other types of relief, and denied relief to 101. Converted to percentage terms, Maldonado denied 68.7 percent and granted 31.3 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Maldonado'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 Maldonado's denial rate of 68.7 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Memphis Immigration Court where Judge Maldonado decided these cases denied asylum 83.7 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Maldonado'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 Maldonado, 1.4% 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 Maldonado came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 31.3% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Maldonado were: El Salvador (27.2%), Honduras (18.4%), Mexico (9.5%), Venezuela (3.4%). 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.