An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent at a federal detention facility in Buffalo, NY. (Source: Flickr/Department of Homeland Security)
In the latest salvo in a long debate over the use of video teleconferencing (VTC) technology in immigration courts, several legal aid organizations filed a class-action lawsuit on Feb. 12 in New York challenging the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) practice of denying in-person hearings to immigrants. The government and other proponents of remote adjudication by video argue that it improves efficiency, while skeptics worry about how it affects judges’ ability to evaluate credibility and immigrants’ ability to present their cases. There have been several legal challenges to the practice since it was introduced in 1996, though this most recent one is the largest and most sophisticated.
Immigration court proceedings have traditionally taken place in courtrooms. However, as dockets have grown and costs have ballooned, the government has increasingly explored methods of reducing the expenses associated with such proceedings. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was amended in 1996 to give immigration judges discretion to conduct removal proceedings via VTC. The agency’s
However, some experts have expressed concerns about the efficacy of proceedings conducted through VTC. A study from 2015 published in the Northwestern Law Review, which analyzed the impact of VTC on outcomes, found that respondents appearing by video were less likely to retain counsel and pursue relief from deportation—and thus were more likely to be deported. The Government Accountability Office’s 2017
By Jessica Zhang, Andrew Patterson for LAWFARE
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