Ensuring a fair day in court as a person without status can be a tricky task to navigate if not properly informed on how to do so. The United States legal system rests upon the principles that all are entitled to due process of law and a meaningful opportunity to have their voices heard, however for far too long the immigration system has failed to comply and provide noncitizens with a system that is just and lives up to these standards. This article will discuss the two aspects about the immigration court/system in the U.S. that all persons seeking status should know about. The two topics I will discuss are right to counsel and immigration courts.
Right to Counsel
It has long been thought that every immigrant has the right to counsel in immigration court. This factor however, is false. Due to the fact that deportation is classified as a civil right rather than a criminal sanction, immigrants that are at risk of removal are not granted the constitutional protection under the Sixth Amendment as they are to criminal defendants. Unfortunately, whereas in the criminal justice system all defendants are provided with an attorney if they cannot afford one, that is not the same case for immigrants facing deportation. However, in every deportation case, the government is represented by a trained attorney who can argue deportation, regardless of whether the immigrant is represented or not.
The immigrants lack of appointed counsel may have its profound impacts on their ability to receive a fair hearing. Previous research has highlighted the importance of counsel most specifically for asylum seekers. The latest studies (data drawn from over 1.2 million deportation cases decided between the years of 2007 and 2012) concluded that access to counsel is scarce and unevenly distributed across the United States as well as immigrants with attorneys have a far better chance in being granted status at every stage of the court process.
For more information and specificities on the data of these findings visit
The immigration court system has now long been in question about the matters of its integrity as a system of justice. To begin, there has now been the long standing problem of shortage of judges for ages. The reality is that over the past decade Congress has immensely increased the funding on immigration enforcement, but neglected to provide immigration courts commensurate funding to handle the thousands of new removal cases the courts receive each year. This lack of funding has left the courts with some serious and adverse consequences. Some of these consequences include backlog and delays on both the immigrants and the government. This means that the valid claims are being left in limbo and delaying the removal of those without valid claims.
To learn more about the specificities that go into the delays of the court, it’s over funding, underfunding and the major effects these matters have on the integrity of the immigration justice system, visit https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/access-counsel-immigration-court for more information about the data collected on these matters.