Quality vs Quantity: How Does Sitting on the Dedicated Docket Impact the Judging Process?
(16 Nov 2022) The outcome for asylum seekers has long been influenced by the identity of the immigration judge assigned to hear their case. This continues to be true as documented by TRAC's just released judge-by-judge report series, now updated through FY 2022. In Arlington, Virginia, judge denial rates ranged from 15 percent to 95 percent. In Boston, judge denial rates varied from 17 percent to 93.5 percent. In Chicago, they ranged from 16 percent to 90 percent, while in San Francisco one judge denied just 1 percent of the cases while another denied 95 percent.

Going forward, a changing environment is underway facing both asylum seekers and judges hearing asylum cases. The Immigration Court backlog of asylum cases waiting for decision has climbed to 771,236 as of the end of October 2022, with increasing caseloads for judges. Wait times for many asylum seekers now stretch out for years, while others go to the head of the line through recent Biden administration initiatives such as the Dedicated Docket and the Asylum Officer Rule.

These new asylum initiatives are creating two very different streams of asylum processing queues. One queue is governed largely by long existing procedures, the second "fast track" queue is replete with deadlines designed to expedite hearings and the decision process.

As the country heads full throttle into expediting asylum cases, more needs to be heard from Immigration Judges currently assigned to hear these cases on the effect this environment is having on them and the judging process itself. Thus far, little attention has been given to the impact of these accelerated schedules on the process of judging asylum cases faced by those assigned to these specialized dockets.

Already there are 37 judges who have made at least 100 Dedicated Docket asylum decisions. While a relatively small cadre of judges handle these cases, judge-by-judge asylum grant and denial rates for these cases continue to vary markedly. The range includes Judge Thomas Ayze who denied 97 percent of asylum seekers appearing before him on the Dedicated Docket in Miami to a denial rate half that level (47%) of Judge Lily Hsu on the opposite coast assigned to the Los Angeles Dedicated Docket. In San Francisco outcomes ranged from a low of 31 percent denied asylum for Judge Steven Kirchner to a high of 78 percent for Judge Ravit Halperin.

To read the full report, including these judge-by-judge outcomes for cases on the Dedicated Docket, go to:

To compare asylum judging at all 65 Immigration Courts, and read the 639 newly released individual judge reports go to:

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