Asylum Rejections Point to Government Bias

By Terry Keleher Aug 26, 2008

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times A new report has found that judges chosen using the Bush administration’s conservative political litmus have shown a…you guessed it…conservative pattern in their rulings against asylum seekers. A research group at Syracuse University found significant differences in rulings when comparing the decisions of 16 judges who were vetted based on their politics to those of judges who were appointed the legal way, under politically neutral rules. Remember Monica Goodling (pictured above), the former White House liaison at the Justice Department who testified that she had “crossed the line” by taking politics into account when selecting immigration judges? Among the picks — a member of the 2000 Bush-Cheney Florida recount team, and another recommended by former White House political advisor Karl Rove. Hundreds of asylum seekers, many facing the real prospect of political or religious persecution in their home countries if forced to return–are now suffering the consequences of the three years of patronage-style selection of immigration hearing officers, an illegal hiring procedure which has since been discontinued. These judges should have been removed or forced to reapply for their jobs under a fair and legal process. What credibility do they have when passing judgment on others who are often only trying to escape political corruption in their home countries? Since 9/11, asylum seekers—especially people of color and those from Muslim countries and southeast Asia—have faced heightened scrutiny and higher rates of denial amidst a backdrop of expanding government policies and practices routinely based on racial profiling, but justified in the name of domestic security. Making matters worse, asylum seekers now face this whole new crop of judges–fully screened as Bush loyalists with high conservative credentials–by Goodling and her pals who served as top aids to the attorney general and white house liaisons. A Justice Department spokesperson, Peter A. Carr, said, “The fact that the process was flawed does not mean that the immigrant judges selected through the process are unfit to serve.” Tell that to the many asylum-seekers whose fates now rest in the hands of certified political hacks. For the complete story, see “Vetted Judges More Likely to Reject Asylum Bids” in the New York Times.