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December 13, 2016

Seeking Asylum? Outcomes Vary by Judge
By Beth Fertig

For immigrants seeking asylum, a new report finds the odds of success are increasingly tied to which judge hears their case with the greatest variety among judges in Newark. There are six judges on the Newark immigration court. In the last six years, one of them granted asylum in just over 1 percent of all cases, while another granted asylum 84 percent of the time. That's the biggest spread of any of the 48 immigration courts in the country, according to new data published by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, based on freedom of information requests. Syracuse statistics professor Susan Long, who's also TRAC's co-director, said each judge is supposed to get the same random mix of asylum cases. She said denials by Newark judges weren't as varied between 2008-2010, when the clearinghouse issued its last report. She couldn't explain the change, or why outcomes varied so much among individual judges. "It is exceedingly difficult and challenging to not have your implicit biases influence you and that occurs in every court setting," she said. "It is very difficult in a situation where you are judging a person that comes from a very different culture than your own, which are asylum seekers. So that sort of is a double whammy. And then you have the problems that the caseloads are so backed up."

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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