What's it like to practice immigration law these days?

For a case in Immigration Court, we write the affidavit, gather evidence, get witness statements, research country conditions, organize everything, copy it, and submit copies to the court and to DHS within the 30-day deadline. We then hold practice sessions with the client and witnesses. A few days before the trial date, we check the online system. The case is canceled. There is no new date. There is no explanation.

We file an application for an asylee's Green Card. The case takes forever. The client moves. We file a change of address and get an online confirmation. Finally, the client receives an online notice: The Green Card has been mailed and delivered. But not to his current address. USCIS has sent the card somewhere else. Maybe to his old address, but who knows? He does not have it, and requests to re-deliver the card have no effect.

Another case in Immigration Court is set for a Master Calendar Hearing (basically a very brief scheduling conference) in 2022. We check the online portal for attorneys. The case has been set for an Individual Hearing in less than two months. The Court did not call us or send a written notice. No one asked about whether we might be available on the new date, or whether we could prepare and file documents on such short notice. We drop everything and so does the client, rush to prepare the case, and--luckily--receive an approval.

We have a number of clients trying to expedite cases at the Asylum Office. We complete their cases, gather information about the reasons they need to expedite, and submit expedite requests. We receive no responses.

We file a motion to consolidate two court cases--a husband and wife. One case is coming up for a trial, but we want a ruling on the motion to consolidate first, since that will affect how we move forward with both cases. We call the court numerous times to follow up. Sometimes, we even manage to reach a live person. Despite these efforts, there is no ruling after several months, and so we have to proceed with the court case under very uncertain conditions.

We appear for an interview at the Asylum Office. We check in and wait. And wait some more. Finally, we learn that there is no officer available to do the interview, and the client is rescheduled. Meanwhile, the Asylum Office is a ghost town and most offices are empty. Given how little is going on, why is there no one to interview our client? We have no answer to this question.

One of our clients tragically passed away in a car accident. We submit the death certificate to DHS and ask whether they would agree to close the case. DHS expresses their condolences and says they will let us know about our request. We do not hear back from them.

Our client's husband comes to the U.S. and she wants to add him as a dependent to her asylum case. We send in all the required documents. The Texas Service Center rejects the application because--they claim--our client does not have a pending asylum case. We send in more evidence of her pending case (we previously sent in the asylum receipt). They reject the application a second time. We send the application again, with further explanation (in the futile hope that telling the TSC how to do their job will actually cause them to do their job). We are rejected again. Finally, we contact the local asylum office, who--after reviewing the various rejections from the TSC--add the dependent to our client's case.

The Asylum Office is expediting all Afghan cases. Apparently, some higher-ups want to show that they are helping people from Afghanistan. We have many Afghan cases, and so now the Asylum Office is pushing us to do many cases over a very short period of time. We do not have capacity to do so many cases so quickly, and it makes it difficult to do a proper job for our clients. Is it really "helping" Afghans to give them very quick interviews if they do not have time to properly prepare their cases?

One of our court cases was canceled at the last minute and rescheduled for a few years in the future. We want to file a motion to advance, so the client can get an earlier date. We contact DHS to ask whether they might agree. They indicate that they need a month to get the file. After a month, we send an email to DHS to see whether they have the file and whether they might agree not to oppose our motion. There is no response, and we send another email. Hopefully, we will get an answer soon.

We file an online FOIA request to get a client's file. The case is registered with USCIS and confirmed by the client. The online system indicates that we have received a response, but we never received any response. Follow up inquiries with USCIS get us no where. We file a new FOIA request and start the process over.

For our BIA case involving an Afghan client, we receive a briefing schedule indicating that the the brief (the legal argument) is due in three weeks. Since the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan, country conditions have changed dramatically. We contact DHS (the prosecutors) and they agree that we can file a motion to remand the case in light of new country conditions. We send an unopposed motion to the BIA. They say that they did not receive it. We send a second copy, which they receive. However, they inform us that they will not have time to make a decision on the motion, and so we have to file a brief. So we are forced to complete the brief--a significant amount of work--even though DHS has already agreed that the case should be remanded.

These are a few examples of what it's like to practice immigration law nowadays. In short, it's bad. And if it's this bad for immigration lawyers, you can bet it's much worse for the immigrants themselves.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com