Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General William Barr appointed Jason D. Ferguson to begin hearing cases in October2019. Judge Ferguson earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2006 from Texas Tech University and a JurisDoctor in 2009 from University of Houston Law Center. From 2016 to 2019, he served as firstassistant district attorney for the 119th Judicial District of Texas, in San Angelo, Texas. From2012 to 2016, he served as an assistant district attorney for the 51st and 119th Judicial Districtsof Texas, in San Angelo, Texas. From 2010 to 2012, he served as an assistant district attorney forthe 31st Judicial District of Texas, in Pampa, Texas. Judge Ferguson is a member of theTexas State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Ferguson were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Ferguson decided 191 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 67, granted 9 other types of relief, and denied relief to 115. Converted to percentage terms, Ferguson denied 60.2 percent and granted 39.8 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Ferguson's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Ferguson's denial rate of 60.2 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Dallas Immigration Court where Judge Ferguson decided these cases denied asylum 73.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Ferguson'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 Ferguson, 25.1% 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 Ferguson came from El Salvador. Individuals from this country made up 23.6% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Ferguson were: Honduras (19.4%), Mexico (11.5%), Venezuela (8.9%), Guatemala (6.8%). 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%).