Published Oct 19, 2023
Tanisha L. Bowens-McCatty was appointed as an Immigration Judge to begin hearing cases in August 2022. Judge Bowens-McCatty earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1997 from the University of North Florida and a Juris Doctor in 2001 from the Florida State University College of Law. From 2013 to 2021, she worked for the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration in Washington, D.C., serving as the Associate Director (2013-2020) and the Director of Legal Initiatives and Member Engagement (2020-2021). From 2006 to 2011, she worked for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., in Washington, D.C., in the following roles: Senior Project Coordinator for the National Pro Bono Project for Children (2010-2011); Project Coordinator for the Raids Preparedness & Response Project (2008-2010); and Legalization Attorney (2006-2008). From 2004 to 2006, she was a supervising attorney for Catholic Charities Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami in Miami and in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Broward County Satellite Office, and from 2003 to 2004 she worked as a staff attorney. From 2001 to 2003, she was a staff attorney with Americans for Immigrant Justice (formerly the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center) in Miami. Judge Bowens-McCatty is a member of the Florida Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Bowens were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Bowens decided 125 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 89, granted 1 other types of relief, and denied relief to 35. Converted to percentage terms, Bowens denied 28.0 percent and granted 72.0 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Bowens's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Bowens's denial rate of 28.0 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Hyattsville Immigration Court where Judge Bowens decided these cases denied asylum 28.7 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Bowens'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 Bowens, 3.2% 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 Bowens came from El Salvador. Individuals from this country made up 51.2% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Bowens were: Cameroon (16.8%), Honduras (12.0%), Ethiopia (3.2%), Congo (2.4%). 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%).