Many important immigration-related decisions are made by the immigration court. These include asylum applications and deportation proceedings. However, while a decision from an immigration court judge has a binding effect, it differs from other courts in several ways. First, immigration court is technically not a court at all, but is an administrative body. It is not part of the U.S. judicial branch. Instead, Immigration Court is a part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which reports to the President.

Who Is the Decision Maker in Immigration Court?

Immigration court operates without a jury. In its place, the judge makes a decision after hearing arguments from you and from the opposing attorney, who represents the government. These judges are appointed by the DOJ, and are not subject to any other approval or popular vote.

What If I Believe There Was an Error in the Judge’s Decision?

You can appeal the decision of the immigration court judge. This appeal does not go to another court, but instead goes to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Here, a panel of 1 to 3 judges will review your case and either uphold the judge’s decision or overturn it. It is possible to appeal the BIA’s decision, at which point your case would move out of the immigration court system and into the federal appellate court system.

How Should I Prepare for Immigration Court?

Despite these differences, immigration court functions much as a regular court does. It is important to carefully prepare just as you would for any other court case. The Immigration Court strongly recommends that you hire an experienced immigration attorney to represent you before the court.

Should I Hire an Attorney for Immigration Court?

If you are involved in or are facing immigration proceedings, you should seek the advice and representation of an immigration attorney. Having an attorney represent you is critical given that your immigration status could be at stake.