Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General William P. Barr appointed Jason R. Masterson as an Immigration Judge inDecember 2020. Judge Masterson earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2003 from the University ofCincinnati, a Juris Doctor in 2010 from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and aMaster of Arts in 2000 from the Naval War College. From 2011 to 2020, he served as an activeduty judge advocate in the U.S. Navy in the following roles and locations: from March toSeptember 2020, deputy staff attorney for all U.S. Forces Afghanistan and the NATO ResoluteSupport mission, Afghanistan, and chief of Leahy Law and Gross Violations of Human Rights,Afghanistan; from 2018 to 2020, staff attorney and probable-cause hearing officer, Navy RegionMid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia; from 2015 to 2018, deputy staff attorney, Naval SpecialWarfare, Virginia Beach, Virginia, including deployments to the Republic of Korea and southernPhilippines; from 2013 to 2015, defense counsel, Gulfport, Mississippi; and from 2011 to 2013,prosecutor and special assistant to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, SanDiego. From 2009 to 2010, he worked in the Cincinnati Prosecutor’s office. From 2008 to 2009,he was a fellow with the Ohio Innocence Project. From 2004 to 2007, he served as a substanceabuse and mental illness case manager for a Cincinnati-area nonprofit. Judge Masterson ismember of the Ohio State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Masterson were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Masterson decided 283 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 188, granted 3 other types of relief, and denied relief to 92. Converted to percentage terms, Masterson denied 32.5 percent and granted 67.5 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Masterson's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Masterson's denial rate of 32.5 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the San Francisco Immigration Court where Judge Masterson decided these cases denied asylum 29.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Masterson'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 Masterson, 4.9% 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 Masterson came from India. Individuals from this country made up 27.2% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Masterson were: Mexico (16.6%), El Salvador (15.2%), Guatemala (14.1%), Honduras (7.4%). 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%).