What happens at your Asylum Immigration Court Hearing
When does immigration court considers asylum requests?
An immigration judge can review and approve your application for asylum if your case ends up being in immigration court in one of two ways.
Suppose you applied for asylum with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You already had your interview at the USCIS office asking for asylum and your application was not approved. If you remained in the United States beyond your authorized stay, the USCIS will then transfer your case to Immigration Court. After the transfer, the court receives a copy of all your submitted documents, evidence and history of your testimony.
Also, an immigrant can apply for asylum directly from the immigration court if s/he ends up being in removal proceedings before an immigration judge. For example, this happens if the immigrant was detained by the immigration police while trying to cross the border.
What is the application process for filing asylum applications in immigration court?
Usually filing an asylum application with the immigration court takes place during the first hearing, that is called “a Master Hearing”. On this day, you need to submit to the judge your application for asylum, Form I-589, along with all the documents proving your case.
When your case was transferred to the court after the interview, you have the right to resubmit the form I-589, making any additions to update it. It should be noted that the information in the form I-589 must correspond with the previously submitted form. You can also submit any additional documents that support your case. An updated Form I-589 and evidence in support of it can be submitted to the court clerk, without waiting for your hearing. Note that these documents must be submitted 15 days before your last hearing, which is called “the Merits Hearing”, and in some cases even earlier if the judge orders you to do so.
Do I need to hire a lawyer?
Having an attorney at your hearing is very important and most judges encourage Respondents to obtain one. A qualified attorney can make a difference between you obtaining your asylum grant or being denied. Attorneys will prepare you for everything that will happen on the day of the hearing, make sure you are not missing any necessary documents and will help you to easier transition through this important step in your life.
Can I choose the judge who will consider my case?
You cannot choose your immigration judge. The immigration court will assign your case to a particular judge. But you can familiarize yourself with your judge in the database of immigration judges of Syracuse University. https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/judgereports/
Is it possible to expedite the hearing process in the immigration court?
You or your attorney may ask your judge to expedite the date of your hearing if it is necessary. But, if you agreed to expedite the appointment of your hearing, then usually the date of the hearing will be assigned to you after 14 days. Therefore, you must be prepared for the hearing.
What happens at the Master Hearing?
Master Hearings are designed to allow you to get acquainted with your judge, to explain to him why you are in front of him, and if you are applying for asylum, to provide the judge with your asylum application. At the hearing the government attorney will tell the judge the reasons why you should be removed from the country, and your lawyer or you will have to explain to the judge why you have the right to remain in the country. In addition to other minor administrative cases, the language in which you will give your testimony will also be determined. The court provides an interpreter.
What happens at the Merits Hearing?
Merits Hearings typically lasts several hours, depending on the volume of your testimony and may even last for several days. You have the right to invite witnesses to support your testimony and an expert who is aware of the situation in your country.
The hearing begins with the entry of your lawyer, where he briefly explains the reason you filed for asylum. Then you will have to take the oath that you will speak the truth and only the truth. Thereafter, your lawyer will ask you questions concerning your case. If you have difficulties with the English language, you have the right to for an interpreter. Be alert and confident in your answers. If you do not understand the question, do not rush to answer, better inform your lawyer or your judge.
After your lawyer has finished interrogating you, the government attorney will ask a series of questions to ensure that your testimony is truthful. He will try to confuse you, to find weaknesses in your testimony. Also, the government attorney will aggressively express his distrust towards you and will question authenticity of the documents in support of your application. Again, do not rush to answer if you do not understand the questions.
Then, you can invite your witnesses to testify. Your lawyer will ask them questions, and the government attorney will also question them. The judge may intervene in the conversation. As a rule, the government attorney does not invite his witnesses, and for the entire time of the hearing, he will exert high pressure on you.
At the end, your lawyer will make a brief conclusion at the completion of the hearing, touching the main facts and reasons for which you should be granted asylum.
Usually, judges make oral decision upon completion of the hearing. It could also happen that a judge needs several weeks to reach a decision. The judge will later send you a written decision or make an oral decision on the record. You or the government attorney have the right to appeal the judge’s decision to the Immigration Board of Appeals within 30 days from the time the decision was reached or mailed to you whichever come later.