Published Oct 19, 2023
Michelle A. Slayton was appointed as an Immigration Judge to begin hearing cases in February 2023. Judge Slayton earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1994 from the University of Oregon and a Juris Doctor in 1999 from New England School of Law. From 2010 to 2022, she served as an assistant chief counsel with the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in Portland, Oregon. From 2007 to 2010, she was a solo practitioner representing noncitizens in Portland, Oregon. In 2007, she was a contract attorney in the business immigration division of Tonkon Torp LLP in Portland. From 2002 to 2004, she practiced immigration law with the Law Office of Claudia Slovinsky PLLC in New York City. From 2001 to 2002, she was an associate in the business immigration division of Epstein, Becker & Green PC in New York. From 2000 to 2001, she served as an attorney advisor at the New York Immigration Court, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. From 1999 to 2000, she served as a judicial law clerk with the Family & Probate Court of Massachusetts in Boston. Judge Slayton is a member of the New York State Bar and the Oregon State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Slayton were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Slayton decided 123 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 96, granted 0 other types of relief, and denied relief to 27. Converted to percentage terms, Slayton denied 22.0 percent and granted 78.0 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Slayton's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Slayton's denial rate of 22.0 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 Slayton decided these cases denied asylum 29.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Slayton'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 Slayton, 0.8% 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 Slayton came from India. Individuals from this country made up 33.3% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Slayton were: Guatemala (17.9%), Mexico (16.3%), El Salvador (9.8%), Honduras (5.7%). 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%).