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

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.
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.
July 19, 2019

Since the mid-1980s, immigration courts have operated the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP). The program is designed to quickly deport people serving criminal sentences. Despite how long it’s...

July 12, 2019

Every day, hundreds of non-English speaking immigrants show up to court for initial hearings where they will see an immigration judge for the first time. But due to a new policy, many immigrants...

July 9, 2019

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) issued a final rule last week that expands the authority of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and Attorney General William Barr when...

July 3, 2019

Attorney General William Barr announced in April 2019 plans to eliminate bond hearings for immigrants who pass an asylum screening interview after entering the United States. This would have...

May 1, 2019

President Trump is calling for new regulations that will target asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. These new rules would accelerate court hearings, limit options for relief, create...

April 9, 2019

Asylum seekers are often imprisoned in immigration detention for weeks or months before they can ask a judge to release them, even though they’re entitled to bond hearings. But this injustice may...

April 3, 2019

Texas—and specifically El Paso—has been ground zero for many of the incredibly harmful policies introduced under the Trump administration, such as family separation, returning asylum seekers to...

March 11, 2019

Many asylum seekers who travel to the United States seeking protection often receive something much less—they are arrested by immigration officials and provided no meaningful way to challenge...

February 28, 2019

The Trump administration’s aggressive enforcement tactics have made immigrants with final removal orders more vulnerable. That’s why it is more important than ever to have basic due process...

April 23, 2018
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council received a partially redacted report written by Booz Allen Hamilton and commissioned by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The comprehensive report investigated a range of immigration court issues including judicial performance reviews, Legal Orientation Programs, and procedural mechanisms, such as administrative closure, that can be used to streamline caseloads.
April 11, 2018
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), announced its intention to cancel the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) despite its immensely positive impact on judicial efficiency and fundamental fairness, and Congress’ express instruction to continue such programming, along with the provision of funding in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill, recently signed by the president.
April 3, 2018
The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), has instituted strict quotas as part of immigration judges' individual performance evaluations, a shift that strips away the independence held by judges who are making high stakes decisions about whether a person will be deported.
March 29, 2018
A federal district court judge in Washington State ruled today that the federal government’s failure to notify asylum seekers that they must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States violated their right to due process, and ordered the government to provide such notice.
February 21, 2018
The American Immigration Council, joined by several other immigration groups, submitted an amicus brief that argues that due process requires an impartial adjudicator and that Sessions’ anti-immigrant statements and actions prevent him from acting as one. The brief lays out Sessions’ decades-long public record of anti-immigrant statements, including specific statements evidencing prejudgment of issues in the case, and urges Sessions to either vacate the referral order or recuse himself from the case.
January 18, 2018
The lawsuit challenges the practice of three of the four sitting immigration judges in the Charlotte Immigration Court who refuse to conduct bond hearings—even though they are required to do so—and are consequently prolonging the detention of bond-eligible individuals for several weeks.
June 19, 2017
The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) are responding to this representation crisis with an Immigration Justice Campaign, a new initiative to prepare more lawyers to be cutting-edge defenders of immigrants facing deportatio
January 12, 2017
A federal court in Seattle has granted nationwide class action status to a case seeking to protect the rights of thousands of asylum seekers pursuing protection from persecution in their home countries.
November 18, 2016
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will be nominated to serve as Attorney General in President-Elect Trump’s new administration. The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.
August 1, 2016
An appellate court has ruled for an immigration group in a lawsuit against the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) challenging its response to a request for information regarding alleged misconduct by immigration judges and records that would reveal whether the agency adequately investigates and resolves complaints against immigration judges.
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”...

October 22, 2019
This practice advisory provides a brief overview of administrative closure and explains the impact of that decision on the future availability of administrative closure, as well as on cases that are currently administratively closed.
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...

August 27, 2019

The Trump administration implemented more drastic changes to the U.S. immigration court system on Monday. A new rule gives the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)—a...

August 12, 2019

Immigration judges around the country are denouncing the Trump administration’s latest move to “disband and destroy” their union. The judges’ union has been openly critical of the administration’s...

August 9, 2019

In an attempt to rush through immigrant families’ court cases, the government began implementing “rocket dockets” in September 2018 for parents and children who had recently entered the United...

August 6, 2019

The Trump administration recently announced it would start applying a fast-tracked deportation process known as “expedited removal” to hundreds of thousands more people than ever before. People...

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