Federal Court Litigation
Deportation and Removal Defense sometimes requires federal court litigation. Our attorneys have the expertise to file habeas corpus and other types of cases in Federal District Court. We have also successfully argued cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Immigration-related federal court litigation is drastically different from litigation in the immigration courts, proceedings before the USCIS, or practice before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and can only hear certain claims related to an immigration matter.
Immigration Litigation in Federal Courts
In an immigration-related federal court litigation, you can:
- Challenge the USCIS’ unreasonable delay in adjudicating an application or petition
- Challenge the USCIS’ denial of an application for naturalization
- Challenge the unlawful detention of someone in immigration custody
- Challenge a removal order on legal or constitutional grounds
- Challenge the USCIS’ unreasonable delay in adjudicating a Benefits Application
If you have filed a benefits application, such as an adjustment of status (green card) or a naturalization application, and if you have already been interviewed, but have been waiting an unreasonably long time for a decision, you can begin litigation in federal court against the USCIS by filing a mandamus to compel a prompt adjudication. You are entitled to have your benefits application adjudicated and the USCIS is required to adjudicate applications in a reasonable time. Litigation in federal court can lead to a resolution in matter of weeks or months. A mandamus suit is started in the federal district court in the district in which you reside.
Frequently Asked Immigration Court Questions
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) reminds parties appearing in immigration court that beginning on July 1, 2008, the Immigration Court Practice Manual will be effective nationwide, and the local operating procedures for immigration courts will no longer be used. The Practice Manual is available on EOIR’s website.
The Immigration Court Practice Manual provides uniform procedures, requirements, and recommendations for parties who present cases before the immigration courts. Specifically, the Immigration Court Practice Manual addresses:
- How attorneys and representatives enter appearances before the immigration court,
- How parties file documents and forms with the immigration court,
- How parties file and respond to motions before the immigration court,
- How parties appeal immigration judge decisions,
- Removal hearings and other proceedings before immigration judges,
- Detention and bond issues,
- Stays of removal orders,
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and
- Discipline of immigration attorneys and representatives.
The Practice Manual also includes useful resources:
- Samples of commonly submitted documents,
- Guidelines on formatting legal citations when filing papers in immigration court,
- A glossary of terms and abbreviations commonly used in immigration court,
- Contact information for immigration courts and EOIR offices, and
- A word index for Practice Manual topics and a citation index for statutes, cases, and regulations.
The Immigration Court Practice Manual is a “living document.” EOIR will continue to update the manual online to reflect legal and policy changes, as well as input provided by the parties who use it. Information on how to submit comments and suggested changes is included in Chapter 13 of the Practice Manual.
The Immigration Court Practice Manual complements the existing Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual in providing important “how to” information to the people EOIR serves. The Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual is available on EOIR’s website.
The process by which the United States grants asylum is extremely complex, partly because it takes place in two different agencies. One is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), located in the Department of Homeland Security.
The other is the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), located in the Justice Department. In addition to being under the purview of separate agencies, the asylum process is further complicated by the fact that it has multiple entry points and multiple exit points.
What is Asylum and Who are Asylum Seekers?
Asylum, in simple terms, is legal protection against deportation. It is the status sought by non-US citizens who enter the U.S., either legally or illegally, asking for refuge based on claims of persecution or fear of persecution in their home country. Although refugees outside the country may ask for the same protection from the U.S. based on the same fear of persecution, asylum seekers are differentiated because they have already entered the country while refugees have not.
Overview of the Asylum Process
There are two routes to gaining asylum:
- Affirmatively through a USCIS asylum officer or
- Defensively with an immigration judge as part of a removal hearing.
The way an asylum seeker enters the process plays a role in the eventual outcome.
Employer Sanction Defense
Employer Sanctions Provisions of IRCA
There are many ways in which an employer can incur liability under the employer sanctions provisions of IRCA. The most obvious way to get into trouble is to knowingly hire an unauthorized alien. IRCA's employer sanctions provisions are incorporated into the main body of immigration law— the Immigration and Nationality Act ("the Act" or "INA")— at section 274A(a). That section provides that it is unlawful for an employer to hire an "alien" (read "non-citizen") knowing that he or she is not authorized to work for him. To do so is a "knowing" or "substantive" violation of the law.
Nearly ten years after the passage of IRCA, many employers erroneously assume that not knowingly hiring or continuing to employ illegal aliens is the full extent of their immigration obligations. To the contrary, it is unlawful to hire anyone without complying with certain "employment verification procedures." Section 274A(b) directs each employer to verify that every employee hired after November 6, 1986 is authorized to work in the United States. This obligation applies to citizen and alien job applicants alike.
This verification takes place when the employer and employee complete the "Employment Eligibility Form," commonly known as form "I-9." The I-9 Form serves two functions: First, it allows employers to assist the INS in enforcing the immigration laws. Second, the I-9 may be used as evidence against an employer who fails to properly complete and store the forms, whether or not any of its employees are illegal aliens.
Practical Advice for Employers
In 1991, the INS published the current edition of its "Handbook for Employers." The booklet is designed to educate employers as to their obligations under the employer sanctions section of IRCA. The Handbook contains the latest version of the I-9 form and walks the employer through the employment verification procedures. For all INS' efforts, however, the Handbook leaves many important questions unanswered—especially with respect to effective, practical ways that employers can protect themselves from sanctions.
While no general advice can substitute for specific advice from the employer's legal counsel, the following recommendations are offered to help employers avoid immigration violations:
- Make certain each I-9 is completed fully and timely.
Employers should ensure that every new employee completes section one of the I-9 on his first day of employment. By the third day of employment, each new hire must provide acceptable documentation showing his identity and employment eligibility, and the employer must complete section two of the I-9. An employer who observes these two deadlines has already avoided the most common mistakes.
Be mindful that the employer need not, and probably should not, examine these documents prior to the date of hire. Asking questions concerning the potential employee's age and ethnicity may leave the employer wide open to a charge of discrimination in the event that the candidate is rejected. The Ninth Circuit has held, in Collins Food, supra, that an offer of employment does not constitute a "hire" and therefore does not require employment verification prior to the commencement of employment.
- Keep adequate records
The regulations clearly require employers to retain the original I- 9's or a microfiche copy of them. As a safeguard, employers may want to go one step further and photocopy all documents presented by an employee in support of an I-9 as is permitted, but not required, by INS regulations.
If a supporting document turns out to be fraudulent, the photocopy will establish that the employer examined the document and that it appeared to be genuine on its face. Since an employer is not required to be a document expert, a photocopy helps to establish that the employer examined the document and had no visual cues to doubt the document's authenticity. Photocopying the documentation may help to insulate an employer from sanctions liability.
The employer must examine original or certified, rather than photocopied, documents in completing the I-9. In New El Rey Sausage v. INS, 925 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991), the Ninth Circuit held that an employer must exercise "due care" in accepting documentation provided by the employee and cannot simply accept the representations of an employee regarding employment eligibility.
Furthermore, the employer should always make a photocopy of the original I-9 and its accompanying documents for its own personnel records, separate from the records it keeps in the event of an INS audit. INS requires inspection of the original documents and is very likely to confiscate the originals in the course of an investigation, leaving the employer and employer's counsel with no records from which to build a defense.
- Establish a system for updating I-9 records
Wise employers will establish a "tickler" system for those I-9s that require periodic re-verification. A tickler system will avoid any inadvertent failure to update the I-9, a clear violation of IRCA. Given the volume of I-9 records, a tickler system will also serve to remind the employer to discard outdated I-9's.
Employers should recall that termination of employment does not necessarily mean that the individual's I-9 may be immediately discarded. Remember the rule: maintain the I-9 for three years after hire or one year after termination, whichever comes later.
- Segregate I-9 forms from personnel files
Employers should create a separate file for I-9s, apart from standard personnel files. Employers are frequently caught unprepared for I-9 audits, and often must scramble to compile the necessary records. A simple precaution such as this greatly reduces the employer's burden and anxiety should an audit ever be conducted. Moreover, maintaining a separate I-9 file will also better serve an employee's privacy interests and lessen the employer's liability for failing to protect those interests. Most employers would not care to have government investigators combing through their personnel files and thereby gaining access to confidential information irrelevant to the I-9 audit. In the event of government inspection, counsel should be aware that employers are entitled to three days notice to produce their I-9 forms.
- Keep plenty of spare I-9s on hand
Many employers simply do not stock an ample supply of blank I-9s in the workplace. An employer does not have much leeway when it comes to I-9s—they must be executed in a timely fashion. It is a weak defense at best to argue to an INS investigator that "we ran out of forms that day."
While the law permits private entities to reproduce the official form, the reproduction must conform in size, wording and language with the officially printed form. An employer may not reproduce the form on company letterhead or create a "new and improved form" better suited to fit the company's needs. An altered or modified version of the I-9 form is likely to be treated as a violation of IRCA. With respect to employers’ sanctions, good intentions may be of limited value.
- Be judicious in locating the I-9 originals
Employers should designate where they will store their I-9 forms and who will be responsible for the safekeeping of the forms. Be advised that retaining I-9's at a central location could pose logistical problems if INS decides to conduct an inspection at a lone local office. For example, if the INS is auditing a business in Los Angeles but the forms are stored at the company headquarters in another state, the employer must still produce the I-9's for inspection within three days or face monetary penalties. This situation illustrates how photocopies of the I-9s and their accompanying documents may be of use. While this courtesy in no way alleviates the employer's duty to provide the original I-9's for inspection, it does at least evidence the employer's good faith compliance with the inspection.
- Conduct internal audits periodically
An employer should conduct in-house audits on a regular basis to ensure that it is in compliance with IRCA. These in-house audits should be conducted by an independent expert rather than the employer, because an independent expert can better examine the I- 9's through the eyes of an INS investigator.
Deportation and Removal Defense
If you or a member of your family has been scheduled for a deportation or removal hearing, your attorney will need to understand the most effective strategies to successfully fight removal. We understand that many immigrants to the United States don't have an option to return to their home country. We make sure that every piece of evidence and legal strategy is part of your removal defense. Unlike many immigration law firms, our attorneys have the experience and skills to handle the toughest deportation and removal appeals cases. We have successfully handled many different types of cases, including those involving criminal convictions, asylum, and contested marriage cases which require fraud waivers before the immigration judge. For example, we have recently successfully represented clients from Afghanistan, Laos and Russia who had serious criminal convictions on their records.
Deportation and removal takes place before an immigration judge in U.S. Immigration Court. In Denver, there are currently four immigration judges. There is a large immigration jail in the Denver area known as the GEO Detention Center, and one of the judges works full time handling deportation cases at GEO. There is also an immigration court located in downtown Denver. EAH Immigration LLP has a proven record of preparing successful removal defense cases for people whose cases are before judges at Geo, and in the downtown Denver immigration court. Appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and federal courts are sometimes necessary to obtain relief for our clients and we have a long track record of success for such appeals.
What is a Removal Proceeding?
Removal proceedings, whether based on inadmissibility or deportability, affect the ability of a person to remain in the United States. Deportation affects people who are already in the United States, either legally or illegally, by forcing them to leave. Grounds of inadmissibility, by contrast, prohibit a person from entering the United States in the first place.
Immigration violations, as well as criminal convictions, can result in deportation, ineligibility for relief from removal, and being barred from naturalization. Deportation and exclusion proceedings have been combined into a single proceeding called a "removal" proceeding.
There are six broad categories or grounds for deportation. They include:
- Entering the country without proper authority.
- Status violators who violate the terms of their admission or work without permission.
- Persons with a broad range of criminal convictions.
- Persons who are members of certain prohibited organizations.
- Certain people who become public charges within five years of entering the U.S.
- People whose asylum applications have been denied or referred to an Immigration Judge.