By Jose Aponte, Esq.
As an attorney that spends a considerable amount of time in Immigration Court throughout the Houston area (Downtown, CCA Detention Center on Greens Road, as well as, via teleconference from the Joe Corley Detention Center), I watch for trends that may be developing over time. Here are five of the most recent trends observed in immigration court in the Houston, TX area:
- New Judges – The Executive Office for Immigration Review, (“EOIR”) has been hiring new Immigration judges throughout the country, including the Houston area over the last few years to meet with the demand to cover the case load. This leads to two potential consequences:
- First, cases that were originally set for dates in 2019, 2020, or even 2021, may now be reset for much sooner dates as the heavy case load is dispersed among the new judges. Moreover, any date requests for individual merit hearing are receiving earlier dates by the newer judges. Therefore, it is important that your attorney to be prepared to defend your case in a relatively short period of time between your last Master Calendar hearing and your Merits hearing.
- Secondly, there is a steep learning curve for the new judges so it is important that your attorney be willing to do all they can to make sure that your right to due process is always protected.
- Hearing Dates – As stated above, many cases over the last several years were being set for both Master and Merit hearings for dates in November 2019. However, there has been a trend of resetting these cases to sooner dates both as a result of the new judges being hired as well as other factors. Therefore, it is very important for both you and your attorney to always remain in the look-out for any such changes to your hearing date.
- “Courtroom shuffle” – With the advent of the new Immigration Judges, there has been a bit of a reshuffle of the various courtrooms immigration judges occupy in the two buildings that make up the Downtown Houston Immigration court. While this may not seem as a major issue, its importance does increase in significance if you happen to be running late on the date of your hearing only to find out that your judge has switched courtrooms and is now in a different building.
- Notice to Appear for Applications – We have recently seen a trend where Notice to Appear (“NTA”) have been served on clients at significantly faster rates that previously seen. For example, individuals who have mailed late-filed I-751’s received, very shortly thereafter, not only an NTA but also had their initial Master Calendar hearing scheduled soon thereafter.
- Respondent’s Without Representation – A trend that seems to be continuing is that of the large number of Respondents that are appearing at various stages of the process of removability without any form of representation. While there are many instances when the respondent simply could not afford the services of an experienced attorney, on many other occasions it is as a result of misinformation. It is important that you do all that you can in order to ensure that all your rights are protected as you navigate the complicated and often confusing maze of Immigration Court proceedings. Hiring an experienced Immigration attorney is an important step in protecting your rights.
We are currently in the midst of many changes occurring with U.S. Immigration laws and policy. Rest assured that as these and other trends continued to develop, the Powers Law Group will remain vigilant and do all it can to disseminate accurate and timely information.