Lives in the Balance: A Study of 14 Years of Asylum Adjudication by the US Department of Homeland Security

Lives in the Balance: A Study of 14 Years of Asylum Adjudication by the US Department of Homeland Security

Event Date and Time September 23, 2013 12:00 pm
Event Ends September 23, 2013 1:30 pm
Venue New York Law School


Event Types:

With the encouragement of Asylum Office Headquarters, Professors Philip G. Schrag and Andrew Schoenholtz (Georgetown University Law Center) and Jaya Ramji-Nogales (Temple University) have spent the last three years studying the asylum adjudication database of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This 383,000 case database, covering the period from 1995 through June 2009, is one of the world’s largest collections of data about adjudicated cases. In an event hosted by CMS, New York Law School’s Safe Passage Project, and the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Professors Schrag and Schoenholtz presented their findings, culled from their investigation into patterns of adjudication nationwide and within each of the Department’s eight regional asylum offices as well as from their interviews with asylum officers from each of those offices. The study, recorded in a new book entitled Lives in the Balance: Asylum Adjudication by the Department of Homeland Security, will be published by NYU Press in January 2014.

These scholars’ prior book, Refugee Roulette (2009), examined disparities in asylum adjudication at the asylum offices, the immigration courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Their new work is a much deeper look at adjudication by the asylum offices. While disparities in outcomes among similar cases remains one aspect of their work, they also looked at changing patterns of asylum adjudication over time (including the effects of the government’s gender guidelines, the one-year deadline that Congress enacted in 1996, the 9/11 attacks, and the 2005 REAL ID Act); officers’ perceptions of certain characteristics of applicants (e.g., gender, whether the applicant entered with a visa, dependents, and representation); differences among the eight regional offices; and, for a smaller database of 31,635 cases decided since FY 2003 by officers who were trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, correlations between personal characteristics of the adjudicators (as revealed by information provided during training) and case outcomes.

The data revealed many surprising correlations, which Professors Schoenholtz and Schrag demonstrated visually during their slideshow presentation.

Lenni Benson
Professor of Law and Director, Safe Passages Project
New York Law School

Andrew Schoenholtz
Director, Center for Applied Legal Studies
Director, Human Rights Institute, Professor from Practice
Georgetown Law

Philip G. Schrag
Director, Center for Applied Legal Studies, Delaney Family Professor of Public Interest Law
Georgetown Law