Immigration Court Practice

“Removal proceedings” are the formal procedures by which an immigration judge determines whether or not to order the removal of an immigrant from the United States. Removal proceedings take place in immigration courts. Immigration courts function somewhat differently from state and federal courts, and have their own rules and procedures. An understanding of how immigration courts function, and of immigration court practice and procedure, is essential for anyone representing a detained immigrant in removal proceedings.

The resource materials on this page provide practitioners new to immigration court with an overview of immigration court practice. Materials include recorded webinars, articles, and hands-on practice guides.



Articles

Trial Skills in Immigration Court

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Here is an overview of how to approach your merits or individual hearing, including conducting a direct examination and putting on evidence.

Articles

Two Systems of Justice

American Immigration Council

Browse through the American Immigration Council’s groundbreaking report to learn about the ways in which the immigration system, a form of civil administrative law, falls far short of the criminal justice system in terms of the procedural and substantive protections afforded to individuals in proceedings. The lack of judicial independence, inadequate discovery, relaxed rules of evidence, and no right to appointed counsel are just a few examples of the diminished due process rights of immigrants facing deportation.

Articles

Introduction to Removal Proceedings

American Immigration Lawyers Association

An overview of Immigration Court proceedings. Particularly useful is the description of master calendar hearings (p. 5-7), individual/merits hearings (p. 17-19), and key immigration law sourcebooks/treatises (p. 2-3).

Practice Guides

Getting Off the Assembly Line: Overcoming Immigration Court Obstacles in Individual Cases

Appleseed

The Guide provides an overview of immigration court proceedings, as well as specific sections on working with clients in detention, obtaining client documents from the government, pre-hearing communications with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), dealing with interpretation and videoconferencing challenges and reporting immigration judge and DHS attorney misconduct. The Guide also provides several template and sample documents to assist attorneys in these cases.

Practice Guides

Immigration Court Practice Manual

Executive Office for Immigration Review

An essential guide for the basics (akin to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for federal court practice), covering topics such as how to enter your appearance, filing requirements, motions practice, and other procedural issues. It is absolutely critical to review the Practice manual and follow its instructions closely.

Practice Guides

Notices to Appear: Legal Challenges and Strategies

American Immigration Council, Penn State School of Law, ABA Commission on Immigration

Want to know more about the initial charging document in regular removal proceedings – the “Notice to Appear”? This practice advisory from the American Immigration Council, titled “Notice to Appear: Legal Strategies and Challenges” provides an overview of the legal requirements for an NTA and strategies for attorneys to cancel, mitigate, or challenge its contents.

Webinar

Storytelling in Immigration Cases

American Immigration Lawyers Association

What is one of the biggest challenges to winning your case? The immigration judge’s boredom. These practitioners share insights on how to engage the court through storytelling, trilogies, how to frame your client’s case as a plot line with character development and conflict resolution, and how effectively to confront weaknesses in your client’s case.

Webinar

Overview of Removal Proceedings

Immigration Justice Campaign

New to immigration court? This introductory webinar by the Immigration Justice Campaign breaks down the who, what, when, where, and how of removal proceedings and immigration court. It is aimed at practitioners with no previous experience in immigration court.

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Guided Learning

If you are new to this area, we suggest the following training sequence to learn about how the immigration court system works.


1. Overview of Removal Proceedings
New to immigration court? This introductory webinar by the Immigration Justice Campaign breaks down the who, what, when, where, and how of removal proceedings and immigration court. It is aimed at practitioners with no previous experience in immigration court.

2. Getting Off the Assembly Line: Overcoming Immigration Court Obstacles in Individual Cases
An overview of immigration court proceedings, as well as specific sections on working with clients in detention, obtaining client documents from the government, pre-hearing communications with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), dealing with interpretation and videoconferencing challenges and reporting immigration judge and DHS attorney misconduct. The Guide also provides several template and sample documents to assist attorneys in these cases. T