- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006


Immigration judges vary sharply in their willingness to grant asylum to foreigners seeking to live in the United States — with denial rates ranging from 10 percent to more than 96 percent, according to researchers who reviewed federal figures.

A foreigner seeking asylum in the United States is far more likely to be rejected if the case is decided by Judge Mahlon Hanson in Miami than by some other judges in the system, according to the study being released today.

The study is based on data from 1994 to 1999 and from 2000 to 2005 from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a Justice Department agency that oversees immigration courts. The report was done by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which collects and analyzes federal government data.

“The goal of any court system is evenhanded justice. It is an important goal, and the results certainly raise questions about whether that goal is being achieved,” said Susan Long, a Syracuse University professor and co-director of the clearinghouse, which is based at Syracuse, N.Y.

From fiscal 2000 through the first months of fiscal 2005, Judge Hanson had the highest proportion of denials, rejecting 96.7 percent of his 1,118 decisions in cases in which the asylum-seeker had a lawyer.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales began a review of the immigration courts in January after chastising some of the immigration judges for “intemperate or even abusive” conduct toward asylum-seekers. Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the review is continuing.

But the study said the court data “document that this problem has existed for at least a decade and that it persists even when the applicants being compared appear to be quite similar.”

The U.S. grants asylum to people who fear persecution if they are returned to their countries because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. The U.S. granted asylum to 13,520 people in 2005, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics.

New York Judge Margaret McManus rejected 9.8 percent of her 1,638 cases in which the asylum-seeker had a lawyer. The median denial rate was 65 percent.

Judge Hanson previously worked for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is now defunct. Judge McManus was a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society’s immigration unit.

Judge Hanson’s legal assistant referred calls for comment to the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Aides to Judge McManus could not be reached.

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