Gender Asylum Study

For years, legal practitioners, scholars, appellate judges, and the media have criticized the arbitrary and inconsistent nature of asylum decision-making in immigration courts and by the Board of Immigration Appeals. They have identified a number of factors unrelated to the merits of a case that contribute substantially to an asylum seeker’s likelihood of prevailing, such as the adjudicator assigned to decide the case (including his or her gender and professional background), the location where the case is heard, and institutional impediments like detention and the lack of access to counsel.

Since its inception in 1999, CGRS has collected thousands of immigration judge and Board of Immigration Appeals decisions, the vast majority of which are unpublished and thus unavailable to the public. This unprecedented collection of decisions provides a unique opportunity to examine the ways in which legal and non-legal factors impact agency adjudication.

In 2016, Professor Karen Musalo, Founding Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, UC Hastings College of the Law, in collaboration with Political Science Professor Anna Law of CUNY Brooklyn College, was awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation* to study trends and patterns in asylum decision-making, with a focus on gender-based claims. In this study—the first of its kind—Professor Musalo and Professor Law will use qualitative and quantitative research methods to analyze over 800 agency asylum decisions to seek a better understanding of how legal and non-legal factors impact adjudication, and to explain some of the vastly disparate outcomes that have been documented in agency adjudication.

CGRS Co-Legal Directors Blaine Bookey and Eunice Lee, and Staff Attorney Annie Daher, have contributed to and been collaborators on this study.

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* This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1556131. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.