LA CITYBEAT: The Lottery seeking asylum in U.S. immigration courts is all in the luck of the draw
Mira Jang, another Stabile Fellow from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, published an indepth story on how the U.S. immigrant court system works. Here is an excerpt:
“Once outside the courtroom, the government attorney was visibly upset, speaking quickly and sighing in between breaths. He was not surprised by the outcome, he told a reporter, given the judge’s record of approving almost every asylum case. In fact, he had predicted it, he says. [Terry] Bain’s denial rate of 9.6 percent is the lowest in the country. “I have no respect for her,” he said of the judge. “It’s all a charade.” He claimed documents provided as evidence told a different story, one that changed once the woman secured an immigration lawyer. The European woman had overstayed her student visa and wanted to remain in the country for reasons that had nothing to do with fearing persecution, he says. “There’s no respect for the asylum process.”
Bain became an immigration judge in 1994 under the Clinton administration after working in private practice for 13 years, including five years at Barst & Mukamal, a New York-based immigration law firm. The majority of Bain’s asylum-seekers came from China (52.2 percent), followed by Albania (9 percent), Yugoslavia (3.5 percent), Guinea (3.2 percent), and Indonesia (3.1 percent).
While Judge Bain granted asylum to almost every person who sought it in her courtroom, Judge Mahlon Hanson of Miami denied it almost every time. From fiscal years 2001 to 2006, Hanson’s denial rate was 97.7 percent, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. Their denial rates topped the highest and the lowest, respectively, among the more than 200 immigration judges throughout the country’s 53 immigration courts.
Among the country’s four largest immigration courts, the denial rates, from fiscal years 2001 to 2006, spanned highs and lows and everywhere in between. In Los Angeles, the denial rate ranged from 86.7 percent to 27.1 percent; in Miami from 97.7 percent to 21.8 percent; and in San Francisco from 86.7 percent to 26.5 percent.”