Anyone involved in the immigration law environment, whether as a lawyer or a client, will notice quickly that immigration court is different from other US courts. For example, there are few, if any, rigid procedural rules. While most federal judges are voted upon by the Senate, an Immigration Judge (“IJ”) is chosen exclusively by the Executive branch, and his or her rulings often reflects the attitudes of the President appointing them. This is because immigration courts are not independent “courts” at all- they part of a collection of administrative agencies charged with applying U.S. immigration laws. This includes the Board of Immigration Appeals (or “BIA”), located in Falls Church, VA, which hears appeals from Immigration Judges’ rulings.
At some point, however, you do have the right to have your case presented to a panel of federal circuit judges. An immigrant who receives an adverse decision from the BIA may appeal it to the local Circuit Court of Appeals. For anyone in the western states, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon, your appeal must be to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The bulk of Ninth Circuit immigration appeals come from one of two types of cases. The first type is denials of asylum; the second type is removal orders following a criminal conviction. If your case falls within either of these areas, it is important to understand several points, even before you have to decide whether to appeal: