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No Asylum From This Houston Judge

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It appears that Houston has not escaped the effects of the patronage-style selection of immigrant judges employed for years by the Bush administration.

According to a story in Sunday’s New York Times, 31 immigration judges across the country were appointed during a three-year period during which the judges were selected using a conservative political litmus test. Many of these judges, according to the article, had significantly higher rates of denying asylum to immigrants than their peers.

In Houston, Judge Chris Brisack was noted as having denied asylum in more than 90 percent of his cases, a rate more than 10 percent higher than his colleagues here in town.

Elaine Komis, a spokesperson for Brisack, told Hair Balls that the judge is not allowed to respond to the story.

University of Houston immigration professor Michael Olivas says the high rate of denial is not surprising given how the judges were appointed.

“This became the repository for political appointments and underachieving judges and the data now show the predictive results of such a cavalier appointment process,” he says. “These are chickens coming home to roost.”

And in the end, says Olivas, everyone, not just the immigrants in court, suffer.

“This is an area which is largely invisible to citizens,” he says. “We have non-partisan world-recognized procedures and rules that are in place and when we appoint political hacks and people with closed minds to these important non-partisan positions, we all suffer, just as a wrongful conviction in a criminal case diminishes us all.”

-- Chris Vogel

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