Published Oct 19, 2023
Lettricea Jefferson-Webb was appointed as an Immigration Judge to begin hearing cases in March 2022. Judge Jefferson-Webb earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1985 from Whittier College in Whittier, California, and a Bachelor of Arts in 1987 from California State University, Long Beach, a Master of Arts in 1993 from Amber University in Garland, Texas, and a Juris Doctor in 1997 from the University of Kentucky College of Law. From 2007 to 2022, she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville. From 2004 to 2007, she served as an Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Kentucky in Frankfort. From 1999 to 2004, she served as an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney with the Fayette County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, in Lexington, Kentucky. From 1998 to 1999, she was Staff Attorney with the Fayette County Legal Aid Society. Judge Jefferson-Webb is a member of the Kentucky Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Jefferson-Webb were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Jefferson-Webb decided 409 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 281, granted 0 other types of relief, and denied relief to 128. Converted to percentage terms, Jefferson-Webb denied 31.3 percent and granted 68.7 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Jefferson-Webb's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Jefferson-Webb's denial rate of 31.3 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 Jefferson-Webb decided these cases denied asylum 29.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Jefferson-Webb'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 Jefferson-Webb, 2.9% 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 Jefferson-Webb came from India. Individuals from this country made up 28.6% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Jefferson-Webb were: Colombia (15.2%), Honduras (11.7%), El Salvador (11.5%), Guatemala (10.8%). 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%).