U.S. Immigration Judges And Personal Bias

As Americans, we often harbor some personal bias against individuals from other countries and cultures that comes out under certain circumstances. Even when we consider ourselves to be nonjudgmental and free of prejudice against others, it is not uncommon for us to discover biases in some situations of which we were not even aware. Immigration judges are no exception. As judges who encounter many different people from different countries and ethnic backgrounds, they are not immune to exhibiting bias in some cases. A recent New York Times article details the struggles of an immigration judge in San Francisco who encountered individuals from 13 different countries over a three-day period, all of whom were facing deportation due to a lack of legal status or conviction of a serious crime. After hearing each individual testify, the judge had to decide whether to deport the individual right away or set the case off for further court proceedings. Amidst the very busy court docket, these split-second decisions are very difficult for the judge to make. Chief among the questions that the judge asked herself was whether she was treating people consistently, rather than making biased decisions based on a person’s race, ethnicity, or age. Given that the average immigration judge handles 700 cases per year, and has more discretion in immigration decisions than virtually any other area of the law, it is extraordinarily difficult for judges to ensure that their decisions are completely bias-free. Another problem in combatting bias for an immigration judge is the high risk of cultural and linguistic misunderstandings. Immigration claims often are primarily based on personal testimony. When an immigration judge fails to understand what an immigrant is trying to say, or there is a significant language barrier, even with the assistance of an interpreter, the results of the immigration claim can be disastrous. Cultural differences also permeate testimony in immigration court. For instance, rather than coherently testifying, an immigrant woman who fled her abusive husband might pray in the courtroom, hoping for divine rather than legal intervention. This sort of behavior, which is largely absent from our culture, might cause an immigration judge to discount what testimony he or she does hear, or to have insufficient information in order to properly rule on the individual’s claim. In order to combat the problem of inherent bias, the U.S. Justice Department is now requiring that immigration judges and other federal employees go through anti-bias training. In doing so, the DOJ is hoping to minimize the bias that occurs all too often in courts and law enforcement. As immigration cases are difficult and complex, you are likely to be more successful if you enlist the help of an experienced immigration lawyer. The Oakland deportation defense attorneys of Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. are here to help you get through these proceedings as quickly as possible. Take the first step today toward your securing the future of your family in the United States, and call our office at (510) 491-0291 to set up a consultation with one of our highly skilled California immigration lawyers.

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