Immigration Courts

The enforcement of immigration laws is a complex and hotly-debated topic. Learn more about the costs of immigration enforcement and the ways in which the U.S. can enforce our immigration laws humanely and in a manner that ensures due process.

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All Immigration Courts Content

May 15, 2013
Our legal system rests upon the principle that everyone is entitled to due process of law and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. But for far too long, immigration courts have failed to provide...
June 11, 2012
In August 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would review more than 300,000 pending removal proceedings to identify low-priority cases meriting favorable exercises of...
September 1, 2006
Access to an independent judiciary with the power to hold the government accountable in its dealings with individuals is a founding principle of the United States. In contrast, imagine a system...
December 1, 2003
Children who travel unaccompanied to the United States experience not only the trauma of family separation and the frequently predatory behavior of the traffickers who bring them, but also harsh...
August 17, 2015
The Council submitted an amicus brief arguing that immigration judges’ duty to develop the record is particularly important in pro se litigants’ cases, and that this duty requires immigration judges to provide noncitizens with information about the types of relief they are seeking and to actively elicit relevant information. For more information about this topic, contact the Council's legal department.
April 16, 2015
The Council and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild submitted an amicus brief in support of rehearing addressing immigration judges’ duty, in pro se cases, to fully inform litigants of the consequences of their legal decisions and to ensure that any waivers of appeal are knowing and intelligent. The Ninth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing in a non-precedent decision. For more information on this topic, contact the Council's legal department.
March 21, 2014
Noncitizens facing removal must have a meaningful opportunity to present their cases to an immigration judge. On occasion, noncitizens are deprived of this opportunity due to their lawyers’ incompetence or mistake. Although the government has recognized the need for a remedy for ineffective assistance of counsel, see Matter of Lozada, 19 I&N Dec. 637 (BIA 1988), the framework currently used to evaluate whether ineffective assistance has occurred is severely flawed. The Council has long worked to protect the right to effective assistance of counsel for noncitizens in removal proceedings.
January 3, 2014
Long used in criminal trials, motions to suppress can lead to the exclusion of evidence obtained by the government in violation of the Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, or related provisions of federal law. While the immediate purpose of filing a motion to suppress is to prevent the government from meeting its burden of proof, challenges to unlawfully obtained evidence can also deter future violations by law enforcement officers and thereby protect the rights of other noncitizens. The Supreme Court held in INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984), that motions to suppress evidence under the Fourth Amendment in immigration proceedings should be granted only for “egregious” violations or if violations became “widespread.” Despite this stringent standard, noncitizens have prevailed in many cases on motions to suppress.
November 29, 2013
At issue in the case is whether the Constitution and the immigration laws allow an immigration judge to enter a removal order without considering whether removal would be a disproportionate penalty under the circumstances. The amicus brief by the Council and the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project tells the stories of five individuals who either already have or soon will face the extreme penalty of deportation and a permanent reentry bar for minor or nonviolent crimes committed years earlier. The men and women featured in the brief share many attributes: all were lawful permanent residents; all established significant ties to this country; all left (or will leave) behind U.S. citizen family members; all committed nonviolent crimes; all have demonstrated rehabilitation; and none was afforded the opportunity to explain to the immigration judge why forcible removal from the country was unjustified under the circumstances. The brief throws into stark relief the real life human consequences of stripping judges of the ability to consider the totality of the circumstances before entering an order of removal.
January 4, 2013
The American Immigration Council, working with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, has repeatedly challenged the “departure bar,” a regulation that precludes noncitizens from filing a motion to reopen or reconsider a removal case after they have left the United States. The departure bar not only precludes reopening or reconsideration based on new evidence or arguments that may affect the outcome of a case, but also deprives immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals of authority to adjudicate motions to remedy deportations wrongfully executed, whether intentionally or inadvertently, by DHS. We argue that the regulation conflicts with the statutory right to pursue reopening and, as interpreted by the government, is an impermissible restriction of congressionally granted authority to adjudicate immigration cases.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) began using video hearing equipment in immigration courts across the country. As a result, frequently a noncitizen facing removal is deprived of the opportunity to appear in person before an immigration judge. Video hearings are more common where a noncitizen is detained, though many non-detained individuals are subjected to video hearings as well. EOIR uses video hearings for both preliminary hearings (“master calendar hearings”) and merits hearings (“individual hearings”). In February 2012, the American Immigration Council submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to EOIR asking for records related to video teleconferencing (VTC). EOIR produced two sets of records.
In November 2009, the American Immigration Council sent a letter to the Executive Office for Immigration Review recommending steps the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals can take to protect the right to effective assistance of counsel and help ensure that noncitizens in removal proceedings are afforded a fair hearing.
The Council submitted a Petition for Rulemaking to the Department of Justice and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, urging the Department to rescind the regulation barring post-departure motions to reopen.
The Council, in collaboration with AILA, inter alia, urged EOIR to amend regulations pertaining to telephonic and video hearings (see page 4).
December 21, 2012
This Practice Advisory contains practical and legal suggestions for individuals seeking to return to the United States after they have prevailed on a petition for review or an administrative motion to reopen or reconsider to the immigration court or Board of Immigration Appeals.
June 12, 2012
This Practice Advisory discusses Dent v. Holder, requiring the government to turn over copies of documents in an A-file where removability is contested, and offers strategies for making document requests pursuant to the INA and due process.
April 29, 2011

This Practice Advisory discusses the procedures and requirements for filing a petition for rehearing, rehearing en banc or hearing en banc in the court of appeals.

April 27, 2005
This Practice Advisory discusses the types of Affirmance Without Option (AWO) challenges that have failed and those that remain available. The Advisory also includes a chart identifying the primary cases in each circuit and how they have decided various AWO issues.
April 20, 2005
This Practice Advisory addresses situations in which a court might excuse a late-filed petition for review and discusses other administrative and federal court options for remedying the failure to timely file a petition for review. The Advisory also provides an overview of 28 U.S.C. § 1631, which authorizes courts to transfer a case to cure a lack of jurisdiction when an action is filed in the wrong federal court.
April 6, 2005
On April 1, 2005, EOIR’s Background and Security Check regulations went into effect. The interim rule bars IJs and the BIA from granting most forms of relief until DHS has informed them that security checks are completed. This Practice Advisory provides basic information about the requirements and procedures under the interim rule and highlights the major changes to BIA procedures.
January 19, 2021

The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to stop low-income immigrants from accessing protections and exercising their rights in the United States. Its last attempt—increasing immigration...

January 8, 2021

This article is part of the Moving Forward on Immigration series that explores the future of immigration in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.  The backbone of a functioning justice...

December 3, 2020

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has proposed two rules that would significantly decrease the due process rights of people in immigration court. Both rules would restrict judges...

October 29, 2020

Over 60,000 people at the southern border have been forced to return to Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. As...

October 28, 2020

Once a year, National Pro Bono Week celebrates the pro bono work of lawyers, paralegals, and law students. Pro bono legal services—which come at no cost—are integral for many people otherwise left...

October 13, 2020

At a time when tensions over race in the United States are high, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in an October 8 memo that it will cancel all diversity and inclusion trainings for...

September 16, 2020

The Trump administration’s justification for ending administrative closure is on thin ice. A new report casts doubt on key arguments presented in a proposed regulation that would end the practice...

August 4, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the United States, immigration courts around the country remain in turmoil. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) initially...

June 9, 2020

With 1.2 million cases pending in immigration court, transparency into how the courts are run is more important than ever. Unlike traditional courts where records are public, the only way to get...

May 28, 2020

The Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) hiring process for immigration appellate judges was recently revealed. Now, the integrity of the immigration court system has never been more in question....

October 1, 2013

Washington, D.C. - Last week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that individuals who have been depor

June 6, 2013

Washington, DC - The public has a right to know whether the government adequately investigates and resolves complaints alleging misconduct by immigration judges, the American Immig

May 15, 2013

Washington D.C. - Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee continues mark-up of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

November 28, 2012

The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center argued that local police violated the Fourth Amendment by unnecessarily prolonging an individual’s detention based solely on the suspicion tha

November 13, 2012

Washington, D.C.—Last Friday, the U.S.

September 17, 2012

American Immigration Council Applauds Ruling
Allowing Immigration Judges to Consider Evidence of Hardship

May 31, 2012

Washington D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center released a report and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on the pressing issue of non

May 19, 2021

This Practice Advisory provides a broad overview of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), including how to make a FOIA request and how to appeal an inadequate response. It discusses the...

May 18, 2021
The Council urged the Biden administration to improve MPP wind down processing and toy move ahead with a second phase to include all individuals subjected to MPP.
May 13, 2021

The Biden administration announced its first round of immigration judge appointments on May 6. Unfortunately, the immigration court appointments do not show the commitment to diversity that ...

April 30, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week in Niz-Chavez v. Garland that immigration law requires the government to give noncitizens complete notice about the initiation of their immigration court...

February 26, 2021

The stakes in immigration court could not be higher—many people face the possibility of being permanently torn away from their families and communities in the United States. Others seeking...

February 18, 2021

The Second Circuit has found that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) must publish immigration decisions, reversing an earlier federal district court decision. The case challenged the...

February 1, 2021
The American Immigration Council urged the Biden administration to address the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigration courts that continue to place everyone's health at risk during...
February 1, 2021
The American Immigration Council joined AILA and other organizations in calling for vital reforms to ensure fairness and integrity in the immigration courts and the enforcement system.
January 28, 2021

Do most immigrants show up for their immigration court hearings? A new report released by the American Immigration Council reveals that the answer to this question is a clear “Yes.” As the Biden...

January 28, 2021
This analysis of data provided by the federal government reveals that 83% of all nondetained immigrants with completed or pending removal cases attended all their hearings from 2008 to 2018.

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