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“Equal Justice Under Law” may be inscribed over the U.S. Supreme Court, but when it comes to the nation’s immigration judges, it would appear justice is meted out in wildly varying ways. A report from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse last month found that immigration judges grant asylum at extraordinarily disparate rates. Take Miami Immigration Judge Mahlon Hanson, who decided 1,118 cases between 2000 and early 2005 and denied asylum 96.7 percent of the time. Meanwhile, Immigration Judge Margaret McManus in New York heard 1,636 cases over the same period and denied asylum less than 10 percent of the time. The report, based on an analysis of 297,240 cases from the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review from 1994 through the first few months of 2005, found that the median denial rate for judges was 65 percent. At the Arlington, Va., immigration court, the study found Judge Paul Schmidt was the most immigrant-friendly, denying asylum in just 38 percent of cases from 2000 to early 2005. Over the same period, now-retired Immigration Judge Joan Churchill denied asylum nearly 80 percent of the time, tops among the local immigration judiciary. Last week Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced a number of reforms to the troubled immigration courts, including a written test for new judges, periodic performance evaluations, and a review of TRAC’s findings.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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