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Video: Immigration Court Hearings And Trials


Deportation Defense Lawyer Carlos Batara Summarizes
Key Facts About Immigration Hearings And Trials In This Video

Trying to handle your immigration court case alone is not a good idea. Deportation and removal defense is a complicated area of law.

In addition, immigration laws and rules are strict.  Immigration court procedures are rigid. The chances of winning your deportation trial is difficult even for the most experienced immigration lawyer.

Here are some important facts about immigration court hearings and trials you should know about.

A. The Immigration Court Is Overloaded
With Too Many Deportation Cases

Immigration judges handle about 350,000 new cases every year.  Some immigration courts, like the Los Angeles Immigration Court, have far more hearings than they can adequately handle.

Especially for Riverside and San Bernardino deportation and removal defense clients, this is not good news.  Their hearings are usually heard at the Los Angeles Immigration Court.

The drive to and from Los Angeles, on good days, is 90 minutes long – and the distance has an adverse effect on immigrants from the Inland Empire to ensure their key witnesses will appear and testify on their behalf. If the case is centered upon hardship, or other matters subject to judicial discretion, the presence of key witnesses is crucial.

Yet, with overcrowded courts, hearings are sometimes cancelled at the last minute. Witnesses who appeared, taking time off work, are not able to return again in 6 – 7 months. The testimony, crucial for immigrants, is lost.

B. Immigrants Need Immigration Lawyers
For Deportation And Removal Hearings

Studies show 90% of immigration deportation cases do not go past the immigration court stage.  This means if immigrants lose at immigration court, most of them will not challenge the immigration judge’s decision by filing an immigration appeal.

Out of all the cases that go to immigration court, 57% of immigrants facing deportation do not hire an immigration lawyer to help them.  Since it is quite difficult to win deportation hearings, it is safe to assume a high percentage of these immigrants lose their cases.  And, as noted above, they are unlikely to file an appeal.

C. Immigration Judges Are Swamped And
Need More Time For Individual Cases

A few years ago, the American Bar Association published a comprehensive report showing that on the average, each immigration judge handles about 1,243 cases per year.  Most cases have between 2 – 5 hearings. When they involve more complex legal issues, or criminal convictions, the case could take 4, 5, 6 years and required 10 or more hearings.

The more hearings, the longer the case, the more backlogged the court becomes. The slower each case becomes.

Due to such time limitations, here is another, perhaps worse consequence.

Immigration judges only have about 15 minutes to explain their decisions.  Whether their decisions are to deport an immigrant, or to grant them permanent residence, 15 minutes is often not enough time to discuss how they reached their decisions. 


According to the most recent Syracuse University TRAC Immigration Project report, the overload has worsened in recent years. This upswing is the result of large scale deportation policies put in place under both the Obama and Trump administrations.

At present, there are now over 585,000 cases at immigration court. Even though the number of immigration judges have increased to approximately 300 immigration judges, the average case load per judge is nearly 1,500 cases per year.

This means judges have even less time, 12 minutes on the average, to render and explain their decisions than at the time of the earlier ABA report.

Rushing through decisions also lends itself to errors. Everyone, in all walks of life, know that when they rush, they are more likely to make mistakes. It’s no different with the immigration court.

Quick, short, snappy decisions also have an effect on potential appeals for the few immigrants who believe the immigration judge made a mistake in their case. For the immigrants who decide to challenge a judge’s decision, short decisions make it harder to put together a successful appeal.

Why? The record of the judge’s reasoning is not as clear as if he or she had more time to explain the full basis of their decision.


Today we’re going to talk about the immigration court process. But before I start that discussion, I have to talk a little about USC here, the USC Trojans. One thing, if you’re looking for someone to help you get through the immigration process, Trojans are a good place to start. Trojans are warriors. Fight on.

On to the show.

There are some startling facts about immigration court that you should know. Here’s the first one. The immigration court handles more or less about 350,000 cases per year. You talk about an overload! That’s an overload.

Ninety percent of the cases end there. This means you either win or lose and it’s over. Now, in earlier videos, I’ve spoken to you briefly about immigration appeals. Well, if 90% of cases end at immigration court, this means only about 10% of cases go to appeal, meaning that people are not challenging decisions when they lose.

Why? Well, there’s a statistic here that is very relevant. Fifty-seven percent of the individuals that go to immigration court do not have an attorney.

Immigration law is complicated. For fifty-seven percent to go alone, that’s almost like a guarantee those fifty-seven percent are going to lose. Immigration law is soooo complicated.

Fifty-seven percent of the individuals that go to immigration court do not have attorneys. That’s a startling statistic. That’s almost a recipe for disaster. Immigration laws are soooo complicated. To go there without an attorney is almost like assuring disaster.

Here is another statistic you should know.

One thousand two hundred forty-three cases are handled per judge per year. That’s the statistic that just came out about two weeks ago by the American Bar Association. That’s startling. You’re a judge. You work 50 weeks a year, five days a week. You have 1,243 cases a year. That’s an outrageous number of cases to listen to.

On the average, studies have shown that judges only have 15 minutes per case to make a decision on the record.

That’s no time at all. To explain why they’re denying someone a green card and deporting them back to their home country or explaining why they’re going to rule in that person’s favor.

Fifteen minutes per decision doesn’t do justice and what this is showing is that the immigration court hearing and trial process is very, very overpacked, overcrowded and there’s some serious things that need to be done to fix this situation.

For now, I suggest very strongly to consult with qualified legal counsel.

If you win, maybe down the line someday, I’ll see you at a naturalization swearing-in ceremony when you become a U.S. citizen. Or maybe at the voting booth someday. Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you again next week.







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