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What Immigrants Should Expect when Appearing in Court

In late August of 2020, news headlines focused on the operations of United States immigration courts caught the attention of many Americans who aren’t familiar with this part of the judicial system. In New York City, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) decided to close its courts over pandemic concerns. This decision was received with suspicion by immigration law firms because federal courts and even public schools in New York were open at the time after having been closed for several months.

Another situation involving EOIR courts unfolded in Cleveland, where people were quite unhappy after being barred from attending the deportation hearing of a beloved member of the community, a man who was supported by a petition signed by more than a thousand Ohio residents. Journalists who wanted to view the proceedings via a Zoom connection weren’t allowed to join the conference. In early September, judicial activists camped outside the EOIR court building in Cleveland demanding to be allowed to attend these hearings, which are supposed to be public.

To say that American immigration courts are in a sad state would be an understatement. This is the first thing immigrants should expect when they receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). There are 58 immigration courts around the country, and they include a handful of Board of Immigration Appeals courts. These are federal courts that deal with civil matters. Criminal cases that involve immigration law aren’t tried in these courts.

The bulk of cases handled by immigration courts are related to deportation and removal. Even though the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants equal protection and due process for immigrants who go through this court system, the reality suggests otherwise. Many foreigners who appear in immigration court are detained. They feel they’re treated as criminal defendants even though this is a civil process, and they’re expected to obtain legal counsel on their own.

Immigrants shouldn’t expect to be provided public defenders upon being detained or receiving NTAs. Retaining an immigration law firm is up to each immigrant, and it’s absolutely necessary to pursue a favorable outcome. As for immigration court judges, they’ll be the first to complain that they don’t enjoy judicial independence. They’re not appointed to their posts, and they can be easily fired by the Department of Justice. During the administration of President Donald Trump, dozens of immigration judges have resigned because they felt pressured by DHS and even the White House.

The sizable backlog of cases in this court system makes retaining an immigration law firm a must, particularly when DHS moves to detain immigrants. Without a San Diego immigration lawyer by their side, immigrants who comply with NTA letters could find themselves detained when they show up in court just because DHS agents support motions filed by the prosecution.

Another reason immigrants should retain immigration lawyers is that their court cases can be appealed. It’s not unusual for overwhelmed judges to make incorrect decisions or for overzealous prosecutors to attempt to cut corners. Some cases could get appellate review in federal court, particularly when they involve constitutional issues, and this could improve the potential for favorable outcomes.

If you have questions about immigration services and how they may affect you and your family, contact trustworthy San Diego immigration attorneys. The lawyers at KS Visa Law have vast experience with every aspect of immigration law, and they’re the attorneys to call on when you need the most up-to-date information about immigration regulations and how to navigate the immigration court system. Call KS Visa Law today at 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

May 2024