Published Oct 19, 2023
Karen Y. Hope was appointed as an Immigration Judge to begin hearing cases in December 2021. Judge Hope earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1989 from San Diego State University, a Juris Doctor in 1993 from Pepperdine University, School of Law, a Master of Laws in 1994 from Georgetown University, School of Law, and a Doctor of Philosophy in 2006 from Georgetown University. From 2019 to 2021, she served as Senior Legal Advisor, Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), Department of Justice (DOJ). From 1995 to 2019, she served as an Attorney Advisor, BIA, EOIR, DOJ. From 1994 to 1995, she served as a Judicial Law Clerk, Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Judge Hope is a member of the State Bar of California and District of Columbia Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Hope were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Hope decided 156 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 10, granted 0 other types of relief, and denied relief to 146. Converted to percentage terms, Hope denied 93.6 percent and granted 6.4 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Hope's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Hope's denial rate of 93.6 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Los Angeles - North Immigration Court where Judge Hope decided these cases denied asylum 82.8 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Hope'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 Hope, 5.1% 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 Hope came from Honduras. Individuals from this country made up 31.4% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Hope were: El Salvador (26.3%), Guatemala (21.2%), Nicaragua (14.7%), Colombia (3.8%). 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%).