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Immigration Judges and U.S. Asylum Policy

Immigration Judges and U.S. Asylum Policy

Banks Miller
Linda Camp Keith
Jennifer S. Holmes
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Immigration Judges and U.S. Asylum Policy
    Book Description:

    Although there are legal norms to secure the uniform treatment of asylum claims in the United States, anecdotal and empirical evidence suggest that strategic and economic interests also influence asylum outcomes. Previous research has demonstrated considerable variation in how immigration judges decide seemingly similar cases, which implies a host of legal concernsnot the least of which is whether judicial bias is more determinative of the decision to admit those fleeing persecution to the United States than is the merit of the claim. These disparities also raise important policy considerations about how to fix what many perceive to be a broken adjudication system.

    With theoretical sophistication and empirical rigor,Immigration Judges and U.S. Asylum Policyinvestigates more than 500,000 asylum cases that were decided by U.S. immigration judges between 1990 and 2010. The authors find that judges treat certain facts about an asylum applicant more objectively than others: facts determined to be legally relevant tend to be treated similarly by judges of different political ideologies, while facts considered extralegal are treated subjectively. Furthermore, the authors examine how local economic and political conditions as well as congressional reforms have affected outcomes in asylum cases, concluding with a series of policy recommendations aimed at improving the quality of immigration law decision making rather than trying to reduce disparities between decision makers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9037-0
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    In this book we seek to enhance understandings of why immigration judges (IJs) do what they do. We perceive IJs as the linchpin of U.S. asylum policy, and we assert in these pages that understanding how IJs decide asylum cases is the best place to begin trying to grasp asylum policy in the United States. In addition, the IJs offer an interesting case study from the perspective of scholars of judicial behavior because they decide cases in highly ideological fashion even though they are analogous to trial judges, a situation that is not often depicted in the literature. We attempt...

  4. CHAPTER 2 Creating a Dataset
    (pp. 26-47)

    In this chapter we discuss the creation of our comprehensive dataset, which we view as part of our contribution to understanding asylum decision making. Our dataset is focused primarily on immigration judges (IJs) because they are arguably the most important decision makers in the asylum process. We provide a comprehensive description to illustrate the significance of our improved dataset and mea sure ments, while at the same time providing a descriptive overview of core components of the asylum decision-making process that sets up the analyses to follow in subsequent chapters. We frame the discussion in the context of the extant...

  5. CHAPTER 3 A Cognitive Approach to IJ Decision Making
    (pp. 48-83)

    In this chapter we draw upon two disparate disciplines and their literatures. First, law professors whose work has been primarily driven by the expectation that international and U.S. asylum law will be applied consistently and fairly have largely responded normatively to the significant disparity and inconsistency in grant rates within the asylum system. Second, international relations (IR) scholars, whose research is focused on the relationship between states, have primarily focused on the foreign policy dimension of U.S. asylum decisions and the normative and behavioral questions that are raised by connection. These two sets of scholars have largely operated in isolation...

  6. CHAPTER 4 Local Conditions and IJ Decision Making
    (pp. 84-105)

    In this chapter we expand the cognitive model we presented in Chapter 3 and in Keith, Holmes, and Miller (2013) to integrate expectations derived from the long-standing debates within the immigration literature to further understand the asylum decisions of immigration judges (IJs). It is important to understand how local conditions might affect IJ decision making. If local factors influence who gets asylum, then the prospects for reducing the variability between adjudicators are somewhat dimmed. Within the asylum literature there is scant work examining whether local economic or demographic conditions have an impact on asylum decisions, unlike the broader immigration literature,...

  7. CHAPTER 5 Appealing to the Board of Immigration Appeals
    (pp. 106-149)

    In this chapter we focus on the relationship between asylum applicants, immigration judges (IJs) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The Board, which is a part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), is the nation’s chief administrative body for immigration law and thus serves as the highest administrative tribunal adjudicating immigration matters. It has responsibility for interpreting and applying immigration laws nationally. For many asylum seekers, the BIA has historically been their last, best chance to challenge a final deportation order. For IJs the BIA is the most immediate venue of review in which their decisions face...

  8. CHAPTER 6 The Policy Gap and Asylum Outcomes
    (pp. 150-186)

    In this chapter we switch our perspective from that of the applicant and his or her probability of individual relief, to that of the policy maker and system outputs. We examine the key legislative actions taken by Congress in the past two decades in regard to asylum. Following upon the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which substantially over-hauled the asylum process. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Real ID Act. The purported intent of the two statutes is to reduce the number of potential terrorists...

  9. CHAPTER 7 IJs and Reform of the U.S. Asylum System
    (pp. 187-200)

    Since the 1980s the United States has granted asylum to over half a million refugees and has granted withholding of removal to another nineteen thousand since 1990. The United States receives the highest percentage of asylum applications of any receiving country, ranging from 13 percent to 17 percent of worldwide refugees in the past decade, and by our estimate the nation has turned away 932,444 applicants since 1992.¹ For almost three de cades social scientists, particularly those within the field of international relations (IR), have examined the factors that influence U.S. asylum outcomes, and have been critical of the role...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 201-218)
    (pp. 219-232)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 233-238)
    (pp. 239-239)