Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Immigration Asylum Denial Rates All Over the Map

Asylum is a legal status sought by a non-citizen who claims to be afraid of harm in their home country. The process by which asylum is granted or denied is very complicated, but sometimes it all comes down to whether an immigration judge says yes or no. The average rate of denial is about 65%, but according to a recent study on immigration judges...

  • Denial rates for the 208 judges ranged from a low of 10% to a high of 98%.

  • Expressed another way, the data showed that while ten percent of the judges examined denied asylum in 86% or more of their decisions, another ten percent of the judges had denied asylum in only 34%.


Why so much disparity?

This report goes into detail in order to document and understand the sources of the disparities in denial rates. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual judge: even similar cases in similar jurisdictions yield widely varying denial rates.


Something to keep in mind, however, is that these immigration "judges" are actually employees of the Justice Department, some of whom were previously employed as DHS prosecutors. While the report doesn't actually examine whether there is any correlation between previous employment and denial rates, it does quote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as saying that there were some whose conduct

"can aptly be described as intemperate or even abusive and whose work must improve."


Gonzales has launched a top-level investigation, but I fear I've gotten so cynical that I suspect all the investigation will serve to do is allow the administration to say "we don't comment about matters relating to an ongoing investigation." In fact, both the Justice Department and its branch which oversees the Immigration Courts (the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR) have in fact declined to comment on the report, EOIR citing a strict "no interview" policy.

Glass one-third empty, or two-thirds full?

Wingers like Debbie Schlussel might find some cause for joy in these numbers, stating

And Judge Mahlon Hanson of Miami topped the list, rejecting 96.7% of the 1,118 claims for asylum before him. That's our kind of judge.

...

We're glad to see that judges like Mahlon Hanson exist and wich there were more. Unfortunately, there are also immigration judges like New York Judge Margaret McManus, who rejected only 9.8% of 1,638 cases before her. That means she let almost 1,500 of these aliens in. Sucker.


But ultimately, conservatives and progressives alike tend to be dismayed at the pronounced lack of uniformity with which judges grant or deny asylum.

Details, details
As part of this study, TRAC has also compiled individual reports on over 200 judges, with specific attention to the nature of their asylum cases and decisions. So, for example, you can find out that Schlussel's hero Judge Hanson was an INS lawyer for 8 years before being appointed an immigration judge, whereas Judge McManus' background includes a stint with the Legal Aid Society's Immigration Unit.

Why should we care?

Conservatives are using immigration as a tool for rallying their base. I believe it's important for progressives to understand the issues behind the anti-immigrant hysteria, and be able to counter the kind of "immigration reform" being put forward by xenophobes like Schlussel and Pat Buchanan.

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8/08/2006 2:48 PM  

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