Asylum Success Varies Widely Across Immigration Judges
(09 Dec 2021) The United States has received a large number of asylum-seekers in recent years, and the responsibility of deciding many of those cases falls on the shoulders of Immigration Judges. TRAC analyzed 223,469 total asylum decisions from 62 Immigration Courts and 492 Immigration Judges for six fiscal years from 2016 and 2021 and found that asylum outcomes continue to vary significantly from judge to judge and from court to court.

Asylum cases are not distributed across the country evenly. Nearly half of all asylum decisions made during this time period were issued by Immigration Judges at just six Immigration Courts, including those in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and Baltimore. Judges in New York City alone issued nearly one in six of all asylum decisions, almost twice the number of the next busiest Immigration Court in San Francisco.

TRAC found that the range from highest to lowest asylum denial rate among Immigration Judges in the same court varies widely. New York, San Francisco, and Baltimore-which are included in the list of six largest courts in the country-each have a considerable range of denial rates among judges. New York City, for instance, includes judges that range from denying more than 90 percent of asylum cases to less than 10 percent. However, Houston and Miami, also in the top six largest courts, have relatively small ranges despite having large numbers of Immigration Judges. Immigration Judges in Houston denied between 89 and 100 percent of all asylum cases.

Comparing judges who hear cases in different Immigration Courts can present a very misleading picture since the nature of asylum cases often varies markedly from one Immigration Court to the next. This was seen when Judge Jennifer M. Riedthaler-Williams was on the bench at the San Francisco Immigration Court and the judge's asylum denial rate was just under 14 percent. But after moving to the Cleveland Immigration Court, the judge's asylum denial rate was 94 percent-an 80-point difference. Similarly, Judge Margaret Kolbe denied just 27 percent of asylum cases while at the New York Immigration Court. But once she moved to her current position in the New York detained court at Varick Street, the judge's asylum denial rate increased to 82 percent.

TRAC's individual judge-by-judge asylum reports provide more in-depth information about each judge's professional background, asylum grant rates compared to their peers in the same court and judges nationwide, and important contextual information about the nationalities and representation rates of asylum-seekers in their courtroom. To access these go to:

For simply a table with each Immigration Judge's total asylum cases decided as well as asylum denial and approves rates go to:

Read the full report at

To examine a variety of Immigration Court data, including asylum data, the backlog, MPP, and more now updated through October 2021, use TRAC's Immigration Court tools here:

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