Politics Interfering With Asylum Cases

On August 26, as part of its stepped-up immigration enforcement efforts, the federal government captured 600 plant workers in Laurel, Mississippi . When detainees like these are sent to detention centers, their fate often rests with immigration judges who are hired by the Department of Justice. Earlier this week, a New York Times article suggested that politics in the hiring of these judges is dramatically affecting the chance that immigrants have at gaining asylum. Referring to former Justice Department aide Monical Goodling, the Times writes:

When vetting applicants, for example, Ms. Goodling asked them questions about their political beliefs and researched their campaign contributions. She also conducted Internet searches of their names and words like “asylum,” “immigrant” and “border,” as well as partisan terms, like abortion, Iraq, gay and the names of political figures, to determine their views, the report said. But it presented no evidence that her efforts were connected to any official policy goal of restricting asylum.

The report studied 16 of the 31 judges that were hired politically, and of those 16:

And when asylum denial rates of all judges across the nation were ranked in comparison to their local peers, 8 of the 16 scored above the 70th percentile — meaning they have been among the judges least likely to grant asylum.Together, these 16 judges handled 5,031 cases and had a combined denial rate of 66.3 percent — 6.6 percentage points greater than their collective peers. This translates into an extra 157 asylum cases that resulted in denial.

The report also notes that nine judges rejected cases at an average that was six times higher than other judges in their locale.