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William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

For reasons that don't bear going into at the moment I find myself representing a legal resident of the US who is in deportation proceedings. Immigration law is entirely new to me, but I have a handle on the parameters of my client's case. We started out with him in the detention center in Batavia, and that was grim, but now that I am learning the ropes a little what I am realizing is that it was grim because it was a holding center. The people I interacted with out there, and the people I have been dealing with and, today, observing at the Buffalo Immigration Court, have been unusually pleasant, and this is surprising the hell out of me.

The whole thing has me a little jumpy, so I thought I'd go over to Immigration Court today to observe how the proceedings go. I'm glad that I did-- had I not I expect that my demeanor at my client's upcoming hearing would have been very different. What I saw was, of course, just a small sample-- two pro se individuals, both, I think, residents of Canada. One was there because he was being denied admission to the US on account of some sort of Canadian drug conviction; the other a woman who'd had a Green Card and given it up. It looked like a pretty busy docket, and this was a master calendar day, so all that was happening was that hearing dates were being set, but I was struck by how patiently, carefully and gently the judge handed each matter. If I hadn't checked it out in advance I'd have brought a lot more grrrrrrr in my attitude when I appear, but now I think I know better.

| Comments:
I have represented a few people pro bono in Immigration Court in Boston and my experience is the same. The people are very nice and hardworking but the system is terribly backed up.
 
Because the rules of procedure and evidence are relaxed in Immigration Court I was expecting it to resemble other courts of specialized jurisdiction-- comp, say. Instead the focus seems to be on really providing due process. I felt pretty good about it when I walked out.

It does seem pretty backed up, and that is interesting too-- there is no way the system could take on more than it has already absent a substantial increase in funding.
 
If the system is backed up in Boston and Buffalo I can only imagine what Brownsville looks like.
 
Buffalo is a border city-- we have a larger than average federal court docket as well, for the same reason. And yeah, it would be interesting to see how it operates in Texas, or Miami, or San Diego.
 

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