In the recent months since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began to crack down hard on all those lacking status, the plight of the United States’ immigration courts has come into sharp relief. A shortage of judges has led many to be unaware of the answer to the simple question of what an immigration judge even does—his or her function is quite different than the run-of-the-mill criminal or civil court judge. It can potentially change your approach to your removal case if you understand the true role of an appointed immigration judge.
Origins and Loyalties
Immigration judges are appointed by the Attorney General, who is the head of the Justice Department. The Justice Department is also the federal agency which houses the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees immigration matters at the basic and intermediate levels—immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) are both governed by EOIR rules.
While this can be a very politicized position, immigration judges are nonetheless expected to have a good working knowledge of the law they deal with and the people they must judge. They mostly handle removal proceedings, and they will do so for both documented and undocumented immigrants.
Many immigration judges have been quite forthcoming about the difficult, even scary nature of their courtrooms. While immigrants are entitled to many of the same rights as U.S. citizens, such as the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure (as stated in the Fourth Amendment), as well as the right to due process (the Fourteenth Amendment) and the right against self-incrimination (the Fifth Amendment), they are not entitled to bail, or to counsel as a matter of course (they generally must hire their own). However, these deficits are not to be used as reasons to go easy on anyone seeking relief from removal.
Overworked, Underprepared and Under-compensated
One important relationship that those seeking relief might do well to remember is that the United States’ immigration system has a current backlog of approximately 630,000 cases, and that very often, it is the immigration bench that receives a large share of the blame for this state of affairs. Those in the immigration system should be aware that this is, at least in part, true—but there are several factors that contribute to that statement being even partially accurate.
A large part of the reason, for example, is because the bench is understaffed and has been for years due to refusal to seat nominees or allow the spaces to be filled in other ways. Research shows that in the years 2013-2015, the processing period of the court actually slowed even when the bench was mostly staffed.
Regardless of the reasons why, the important thing for those seeking removal is to be aware that if they are granted the right to see an immigration judge, that judge will almost certainly be overworked and underprepared. As such, it is generally a good idea to ensure your attorney preserves your right to appeal any adverse decision, since if they do not do so affirmatively, you generally lose that right.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
While the grant rate for each immigration judge will vary wildly, one constant that can increase your chances of success in your case is to enlist a knowledgeable immigration attorney. The passionate Chicago deportation defense lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are experienced in immigration court and we will do our best to get you the result you seek. Call our office today for a free consultation.
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