Federal immigration judges across the nation were wildly inconsistent in granting protection during the past year to foreigners who claim persecution, a Denver Post review of Justice Department statistics shows. Asylum approval rates ranged from as high as 66 percent by immigration judges in Honolulu to a low of 4 percent in Atlanta. In cities receiving at least 1,000 applications, approval rates varied from 43 percent in New York to 26 percent in San Francisco to 10 percent in Chicago, according to data from the nine-month period that ended in June.
Those disparities aren’t lost on newly arriving immigrants and asylum-seekers who now shop for judges they believe will be sympathetic, said Paul Stein, director of the Rocky Mountain Survivors Center. This “forum shopping” involves “calling all over the country saying ‘What happened to you?”‘ Mohamed Hassan, a factory worker from Somalia, had his asylum application rejected in Atlanta and came to Denver, where four times as many requests – nearly 20 percent – are granted. Hassan, 26, successfully applied to stay in the country under “temporary protective status” for people from unstable countries.