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Judge James McKee
FY 2018 - 2023, New York Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General William P. Barr appointed James R. McKee as an Immigration Judge inOctober 2020. Judge McKee earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1988 from Syracuse University, a JurisDoctor in 1991 from the Syracuse University College of Law, and a Master of Laws in 2002from the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School. From 2018 to 2020, he served aschief, Foreign Law Branch, Department of Defense, in Wiesbaden, Germany, and theIntelligence and Security Command, in Fort Meade, Maryland. From 2016 to 2018, he servedwith the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, Department of Justice. From 1994 to 2016,he served as a U.S. Army judge advocate in multiple positions in the criminal, operational, andadministrative law divisions. He also served in the legal assistance, training development andfuture concepts directorates, and as the first program manager of the Special Victims’ CounselProgram, in the U.S., Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan. From 1996 to 2001, he served withNATO in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo. From 2003 to 2013, he served in OperationEnduring Freedom once and in Operation Iraqi Freedom three times, retiring as colonel in 2016.From 1989 to 1993, he served as an enlisted infantry soldier with the 10th Mountain Division,Communications and Legislative Affairs DivisionNew York Army National Guard. From 1991 to 1993, he served as a clerk for the 60th JudicialDistrict Court of Common Pleas, in Pike County, Pennsylvania. Judge McKee is a member of theNew York State Bar and the Pennsylvania State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge McKee were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge McKee decided 290 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 81, granted 0 other types of relief, and denied relief to 209. Converted to percentage terms, McKee denied 72.1 percent and granted 27.9 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge McKee'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 McKee's denial rate of 72.1 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the New York Immigration Court where Judge McKee decided these cases denied asylum 34.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge McKee'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 McKee, 6.9% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% of asylum seekers are not represented.

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 McKee came from . Individuals from this country made up . of his caseload. 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.