How Recent Court Decisions Are Restricting Deportation Hearings

If you are detained in the United States as a suspected illegal or unlawful immigrant, your right to access the United States legal system and due process is incredibly important. Through a series of hearings and the right to legal counsel, an undocumented or illegal immigrant has an opportunity to show a claim for asylum or other reason to remain in the United States.

However, the United States courts have made a series of recent decisions that are incrementally restricting the ability of judges to have independence in deportation hearings. These decisions are backed by statements from the United States Attorney General, and together reflect a consistent and serious shift in restricting deportation hearings across the United States.

In today’s post, we are taking a look at two decisions in the past 30 days alone that could impact the deportation hearings of your family, friends, and loved ones right here in California.

Changing the Standard for Postponing Cases

All judges have some latitude to postpone a case, hearing, or appearance. The ability to reschedule a case isn’t tied to deportation hearings, and judges of all types and courts can decide deferment is required or fair. For example, in a criminal case, a judge may issue a continuance because new evidence was uncovered or a surprise witness was brought to the prosecutor’s attention. This postponement is legally called “issuing a continuance.”

A recent ruling substantially reduces the discretion of immigration judges to issue a continuance in deportation hearings and other immigration cases. Instead, immigration judges are asked to employ a multifactor-balancing test that can consider only specific factors and grant relief only when the test is met. This removes a great deal of judicial independence, in particular when the circumstances of the case don’t meet the strict definition of good cause under this new case.

So, how does this ruling impact people appearing for deportation hearings and other immigration cases? It could limit your options on hearing dates, reasons for continuation, and the ability of your immigration lawyer to make a creative argument for postponement. It also means your immigration judge will have far fewer equitable reasons to grant a continuation, even when you lawyer makes an outstanding argument.

Limiting the Reasons for Terminating a Case

As your California immigration lawyer will tell you, the reasons for an immigration judge to terminate or dismiss a case are already few and far between. In today’s political and social climate, you need a strong argument to have a judge terminate your case. The same goes for dismissal of deportation hearings. And a recent case and statement by the Attorney General will limit these options even further.

In mid-September, AG Jeff Sessions released a statement that specified the reasoning for terminating or dismissing an immigration case is limited to those reasons set out in the regulations and by the Department of Homeland Security. The statement from the Attorney General effectively curtails judicial independent on terminating or dismissing deportation hearings to a small and shrinking number of reasons.

The practical effect of formally and narrowly restricting the reasons for terminating a case is that it gives defendant far fewer opportunities to order their lives, postpone for specific medical reasons, or allow a California immigration lawyer to make arguments for termination based on personal or unique reasons to terminate a case. Instead, terminating or dismissing a case becomes a routine and streamlined process, in an area of law that should account for individualized considerations or concerns.

Take Your Case to an Immigration Lawyer

The underlying implication of these changes to the process and procedure of immigration cases is that it is harder to fight an immigration case and requires more skill and knowledge of the law to win these fights. Immigrants and others involved in immigration courts are finding it more and more difficult to navigate successfully through the system and have their story heard.

When it comes to deportation hearings, defendants are facing some of the toughest procedural requirements, and the assistance of a California immigration lawyer could be invaluable. To speak with a lawyer regarding your case or the case of a loved one, contact Greco Neyland in LA. You can call our office directly at (213) 295-3500.


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