Saturday, September 12, 2009

Read On! Refugee Roulette by IntLawGrrl Jaya Ramji-Nogales et al.

(Read On! ... occasional posts on writing we're reading) Can't let any more time go by without noting the début this month of 0ur own Jaya Ramji-Nogales' latest book, Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication and Proposals for Reform.
Co-authored with Visiting Professor Andrew I. Schoenholtz and Professor Philip G. Schrag, both at Georgetown Law, it features a foreword by Edward M. Kennedy, the longtime Democratic Senator from Massachusetts who passed away just weeks ago (prior post).
Loyal blog readers no doubt will recall the title: it was also the name of a Stanford Law Review article by the 3, on which Jaya (right) blogged back in 2007, the same day that The New York Times published a story about the findings of this empirical study of asylum judges.
Here's how NYU Press begins its description of the book that grew out of that earlier project:
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 ...
That, however, is not the case, as the co-authors found:

[L]ife-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.
Analyzing 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 authors identified "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.
Having set out these data, the authors recommend reforms, and then present essays on same by Bruce Einhorn, Steven Legomsky, Audrey Macklin, M. Margaret McKeown, Allegra McLeod, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Margaret Taylor, and Robert Thomas.
Heartfelt congratulations!

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