For immigrants seeking benefits, immigration lawyers have become more important since the 9/11 attacks. Immigration rules are stricter. Procedures are tighter. Judges are tougher.
Yet, over 50% of immigrants go to Immigration Court hearings without a lawyer. This is a recipe for disaster.
Americans looked for causes after the 9/11 attacks – many blamed the immigration system. Nineteen hijackers had entered the United States on student visas; the others used tourist visas. The results were predictable. It became more difficult to qualify for permanent residence, U.S. citizenship, and other immigrant visas.
When green card applications fail, immigrants – and often their family members – are sent to Immigration Court. The government attorney asks the judge to remove the immigrants. It becomes a winner-takes-all situation.
Like all aspects of immigration law, court procedures have become more rigid in recent years. These changes make winning your case harder than ever before . . . and the role of an immigration attorney more essential to your success.
THE IMMIGRATION COURT OVERLOAD
Immigration courts are flooded today: an overload of cases and not enough time.
Immigration judges, since 2002, handle about 300,000 cases annually. There are 54 immigration courts and 226 immigration judges. On the average, immigration judges make five rulings per day, and sometimes have less than 15 minutes to issue their decisions.
The results of overcrowding:
Immigration judges quickly review documents, looking for omissions and mistakes. A single error may cause a case to be denied, setting an immigrant’s petition back by a year or more. Such mistakes can lead to your deportation from the U.S.
Judges are forced to complete trials as quickly as possible. Many immigration judges ask for written statements, instead of listening to the testimony of your witnesses. Important information may be left out. Unless there is an immigration attorney doing the writing, most immigrants will fail to include certain evidence the judges need to know.
Judges will not create law. They do not study rules like an immigration trial lawyer. If other courts have used laws in a certain way, an immigration judge is not going to change how things have been done. But an immigration attorney, with deportation defense experience, will know how to challenge laws and procedures if your case is different.
THE ROLE OF YOUR IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY
An immigration attorney can bring many advantages to your case – and can help you overcome difficult issues you will face at your court hearings. These advantages may make the difference between winning and losing.
First, everything counts at an immigration trial. How your documents are prepared, from the start, will affect your entire case. Too often deserving and honorable immigrants destroy their chances with poorly prepared paperwork. Confusing information can make it difficult to challenge a bad decision by the judge. An immigration attorney can keep these errors from taking place.
Second, several programs are unknown to immigrants. They can be missed if you are not being helped by an experienced immigration trial attorney. For example, 5-10 years ago, a special program may have existed for immigrants from your home country. Now it no longer exists. Good immigration attorneys will know if it can still help you.
Most importantly, an attorney with immigration appeals experience can help protect you from bad decisions. Judges are humans. They make mistakes. An immigration judge might not adequately consider your evidence. A judge may fail to properly consider testimony from a witness. Perhaps the judge improperly uses a rule against you. Your lawyer will be able to challenge these errors.
Because immigration cases are harder today, hiring an immigration attorney may be the only way to protect your right to a fair hearing – as well as your ability to live in the United States.