Each year, tens of thousands of people who have been persecuted or fear persecution in their home countries apply for asylum in the United States. Immigration judges (IJ) from the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) decide whether to grant or deny asylum to aliens in removal proceedings. Those denied asylum may appeal their case to EOIR's Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). GAO was asked to assess the variability of IJ rulings, and the effects of policy changes related to appeals and claims. This report addresses: (1) factors affecting variability in asylum outcomes; (2) EOIR actions to assist applicants and IJs; (3) effects associated with procedural changes at the BIA; and (4) effects of the requirement that asylum seekers apply within 1 year of entering the country. GAO analyzed DOJ asylum data for fiscal years 1995 through mid-2007, visited 5 immigration courts in 3 cities, including those with 3 of the top 4 asylum caseloads; observed asylum hearings; and interviewed key officials. Results of the visits provided additional information but were not projectable.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Executive Office for Immigration Review||To address disparities in asylum outcomes that may be unwarranted and to facilitate EOIR's goal of identifying immigration judges who may benefit from supplemental efforts to improve their performance, EOIR's Chief Immigration Judge should utilize the information from our multivariate statistical analyses to identify which immigration judges remained many times more or less likely to grant asylum than others, after accounting for claimant and immigration judge characteristics.|
|Executive Office for Immigration Review||To address disparities in asylum outcomes that may be unwarranted and to facilitate EOIR's goal of identifying immigration judges who may benefit from supplemental efforts to improve their performance, EOIR's Chief Immigration Judge should identify and examine cost-effective options (e.g., developing an inhouse capability or hiring a private contractor) for acquiring the expertise needed to perform periodic multivariate statistical analyses of immigration judges' asylum decisions.|
|Executive Office for Immigration Review||In addition, to more fully respond to the Attorney General's directive to strengthen management and oversight of immigration courts, EOIR's Chief Immigration Judge should develop a plan for supervisory immigration judges, to include an assessment of the resources and guidance needed to ensure that immigration judges receive effective supervision.|