Immigrants who are scared for their safety can be granted legal asylum in the United States but court data analyzed NBC 7 Investigates, and The Investigative Unit out of the Bay Area, raises the question of whether asylum is granted based on the merits of each case or by the Judge’s beliefs who is making the decision.
Data collected by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows a wide gap in the granting of asylum from immigration court to court across the country.
“I think there are a number of factors that contribute to these disparities,” Karen Musalo said from the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. “They have to do with both the selection process for the individual judges and what their backgrounds are and whether or not they're qualified.”
From the fiscal year 2016 through March 2018, San Diego granted asylum an average of 49 percent of all the cases processed. This is above the national average of 42 percent during that same time period.
When looking at data from 2012 to 2017, San Diego’s asylum approval rate, on average, goes down to 35.13 percent. One San Diego immigration judge approved 12 percent of asylum requests processed from 2012 to 2017, compared to another judge who granted 54 percent.
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, New York, and Boston granted asylum in more than 50 percent of asylum cases heard from the fiscal year 2016 through March 2018.
The courts with the lowest rates of asylum requests granted from the fiscal year 2016 through March 2018 include Atlanta, Lumpkin, Georgia, Charlotte, Dallas, and Houston.
To read more of this story and see an example of two Honduran women who fled their country for similar reasons but had different outcomes in the asylum court process, click here.