Published Oct 19, 2023
Lucero M. Saldana Mistry was appointed as an immigration judge to begin hearing cases in May 2023. Judge Saldana Mistry earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2006 from the Florida Atlantic University and a Juris Doctor in 2009 from the Florida Coastal School of Law. From 2017 to 2023, she worked at Frank Hiscock Legal Aid Society (HLAS) in New York where she served as pro bono counsel and held the following positions: deputy executive director (2022-2023); supervising attorney (2019-2022); and staff attorney (2017-2019). From 2013 to 2017, she was in private practice at U.S. Immigration Assist PA in Florida. From 2010 to 2013, she was an associate attorney at the Law Offices of Morano International PA in Florida. Judge Saldana Mistry is a member of the District of Columbia Bar, the Florida Bar, and the New York State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Saldana Mistry were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Saldana Mistry decided 104 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 39, granted 2 other types of relief, and denied relief to 63. Converted to percentage terms, Saldana Mistry denied 60.6 percent and granted 39.4 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Saldana Mistry's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Saldana Mistry's denial rate of 60.6 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Boston Immigration Court where Judge Saldana Mistry decided these cases denied asylum 49.1 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Saldana Mistry'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 Saldana Mistry, 0% 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 Saldana Mistry came from Brazil. Individuals from this country made up 53.8% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Saldana Mistry were: El Salvador (12.5%), Guatemala (9.6%), Honduras (7.7%), Colombia (4.8%). 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%).