Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication and Proposals for Reform

Overview

Through the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States offers the prospect of safety to people who flee to America to escape rape, torture, and even death in their native countries. In order to be granted asylum, however, an applicant must prove to an asylum officer or immigration judge that she has a well-founded fear of persecution in her homeland. The chance of winning asylum should have little if anything to do with the personality of the official to whom a case is randomly assigned, but in a ground-breaking and ...

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Overview

Through the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States offers the prospect of safety to people who flee to America to escape rape, torture, and even death in their native countries. In order to be granted asylum, however, an applicant must prove to an asylum officer or immigration judge that she has a well-founded fear of persecution in her homeland. The chance of winning asylum should have little if anything to do with the personality of the official to whom a case is randomly assigned, but in a ground-breaking and shocking study, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Andrew I. Schoenholtz, and Philip G. Schrag learned that life-or-death asylum decisions are too frequently influenced by random factors relating to the decision makers. In many cases, the most important moment in an asylum case is the instant in which a clerk randomly assigns the application to an adjudicator. The system, in its current state, is like a game of chance.

Refugee Roulette is the first analysis of decisions at all four levels of the asylum adjudication process: the Department of Homeland Security, the immigration courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the United States Courts of Appeals. The data reveal tremendous disparities in asylum approval rates, even when different adjudicators in the same office each considered large numbers of applications from nationals of the same country. After providing a thorough empirical analysis, the authors make recommendations for future reform. Original essays by eight scholars and policy makers then discuss the authors’ research and recommendations

Contributors: Bruce Einhorn, Steven Legomsky, Audrey Macklin, M. Margaret McKeown, Allegra McLeod, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Margaret Taylor, and Robert Thomas.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[T]his is research in the best tradition: it confirms what you largely know already but gives you the ammunition to prove it.”-Justice Journal ,

Refugee Roulette reveals how far the nation’s asylum adjudication system has veered from its traditional moorings of equal justice under law and protection for those in danger of political persecution. The authors bring impressive experience, care, and seasoned judgment to the table. Refugee Roulette should serve as a blueprint for action by policymakers and a new administration.”

-Doris Meissner,Former Commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization, Service and Senior Fellow, Migration Polic

“Insiders have long bemoaned the arbitrary and unfair outcomes of the U.S. asylum system. Finally we have a meticulous and compelling study that lays bare the indisputable problems and essential remedies for all to see.”
-Jacqueline Bhabha,Jeremiah Smith Jnr Lecturer, Harvard Law School, Director, University Committee on Human Rights Studies

“The study concerns one ‘big idea’ which, importantly, is accessible to both lawyers and laymen without any special jurisprudential or philosophical introduction: the right to have like cases treated alike… [The authors] seem to be stones that have rubbed each other smooth. Their prose is beautifully clear throughout.”

-Modern Law Review,

“This pathbreaking study of the asylum system in the United States, coupled with the comparative commentary, reveals the enormous challenges of making fair decisions about asylum claims when the underlying facts are far away and decisions rest on assessments of credibility—of people who often do not speak the language of the judge. At its core, this work raises the profound question of when a system of decision making qualifies to be called a ‘court.’ ”
-Judith Resnik,Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814740743
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2009
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jaya Ramji-Nogales is Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for International Law and Public Policy at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

List of Tables xiii

Foreword Senator Edward M. Kennedy xv

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction 1

Part I Refugee Roulette

1 The Asylum Process 11

2 The Regional Asylum Offices 17

3 The Immigration Courts 33

4 The Board of Immigration Appeals 61

5 The United States Courts of Appeals 77

6 Conclusions and Policy Recommendations 89

Part II International, Judicial, and Scholarly Perspectives

7 Refugee Roulette in the Canadian Casino Audrey Macklin 135

8 Refugee Roulette: A UK Perspective Robert Thomas 164

9 Consistency, Credibility, and Culture Bruce J. Einhorn 187

10 Asylum in a Different Voice? Judging Immigration Claims and Gender Carrie Menkel-Meadow 202

11 Refugee Roulette in an Administrative Law Context: The Déjà Vu of Decisional Disparities in Agency Adjudication Margaret H. Taylor 227

12 Learning to Live with Unequal Justice: Asylum and the Limits to Consistency Steven H. Legomsky 250

13 The Counsel Conundrum: Effective Representation in Immigration Proceedings M. Margaret McKeown Allegra McLeod 286

Methodological Appendix 307

Ninth Circuit Appendix 327

Index 331

About the Authors 335

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