Immigration Courts

The U.S. immigration system is complex and can be difficult to understand. These resources provide key data points, historical information, and background on hot topics in immigration. Learn the basics about immigration.

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All Immigration Courts Content

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...
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).
The Council commented on several issues addressed by the draft report, including video hearings (see page 4). ACUS’s draft report and the final recommendations, included that EOIR should consider more systemic assessments of the use of video hearings.
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 30, 2020

A congressional oversight committee held a hearing this week on the need for immigration court reform and the systemic due process challenges within the immigration court system. The House...

January 17, 2020

Asylum seekers subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols—or the “Remain in Mexico” program—in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas attend their court hearings in tents known as “port courts.” The...

December 5, 2019

Attorney General Sessions’ orders to prioritize prosecuting people for immigration-related offenses in 2017 and 2018 put a significant strain on law enforcement across the border, diverting...

December 3, 2019

Every year, thousands of people are forced to face the complex deportation system without an attorney representing them. Now, the immigration courts are seeking to limit the assistance that these...

November 6, 2019

It’s been nearly a year since the Trump administration announced the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), or the “Remain in Mexico” program. This program forces vulnerable asylum seekers to return...

November 5, 2019

Understanding how the immigration agencies operate has never been more important. Equally important is being able to rely on the information that those agencies release to the public. For this...

October 23, 2019

Rape, violence, kidnapping, and lack of basic health care is, unfortunately, a reality for hundreds of asylum seekers subjected to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico”...

September 24, 2019

When Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the immigration courts faced a record backlog of over 542,000 cases. This month, the immigration court backlog hit a new historic high with over 1,...

September 9, 2019

The first thing many people forcibly returned to Mexico tell you is that they’re afraid. Afraid of the cartels, afraid of Mexican immigration officials, and afraid of the months of uncertainty....

August 29, 2019

Immigration judges from across the country will soon be reassigned from their normal caseload to  preside over thousands of immigration cases along the U.S.-Mexico border, reportedly in an effort...

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

April 23, 2012

Washington, D.C.—On Friday, the American Immigration Council challenged a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruling that immigrants who are arrested without a warra

April 1, 2020

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads and entire states go into quarantine, immigrants and their attorneys are still being forced to gather in cramped immigration courtrooms inside detention...

The Council filed a lawsuit to close the immigration courts and ensure due process.
March 19, 2020
The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court to compel the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy to release records about the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s hiring procedures for appellate immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals Members. The lawsuit seeks to understand current hiring procedures for the BIA—the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws—after reports came to light of anti-immigrant bias in the hiring process.
March 17, 2020

The Trump administration has steadily implemented initiatives to restructure the immigration court system without providing much information to the public. The lack of government transparency...

The American Immigration Council filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) seeking information relating to the expansion and...

January 30, 2020

A congressional oversight committee held a hearing this week on the need for immigration court reform and the systemic due process challenges within the immigration court system. The House...

January 17, 2020

Asylum seekers subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols—or the “Remain in Mexico” program—in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas attend their court hearings in tents known as “port courts.” The...

December 5, 2019

Attorney General Sessions’ orders to prioritize prosecuting people for immigration-related offenses in 2017 and 2018 put a significant strain on law enforcement across the border, diverting...

December 3, 2019

Every year, thousands of people are forced to face the complex deportation system without an attorney representing them. Now, the immigration courts are seeking to limit the assistance that these...

November 6, 2019

It’s been nearly a year since the Trump administration announced the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), or the “Remain in Mexico” program. This program forces vulnerable asylum seekers to return...

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