Mr. Lee's Article - "Immigration Court On Line 1-800 System To Be Severely Restricted To Users - Negative Ramifications For EOIR And Aliens." as published in the Immigration Daily on August 23, 2010

By Alan Lee, Esq.

Although it is certainly not a right of illegal aliens, and extended as an aid to both the government and members of the public by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the 1-800 immigration court line (1-800-898-7180) has become an increasingly popular and integral way to quickly determine whether an undocumented immigrant has been or is presently in exclusion, deportation, or removal proceedings. All that is required to access the system is to enter the alien's "A" number and follow the voice prompts. That is about to change as EOIR announced that beginning October 4, 2010, users will also be required to enter into the system the date of the undocumented immigrant's charging document which alleges the grounds for exclusion, deportation, or removal . The charging document will either be a Form I-122 for exclusion proceedings, order to show cause (OSC) for deportation proceedings, or notice to appear (NTA) for removal proceedings. The major difficulty with this new requirement is that many aliens in our experience never kept or received or had access to their charging documents which were kept by former lawyers or consulting agencies, and the only thing that they know about their case is their "A" number. With the implementation of this requirement, the 1-800 immigration court line will become useless to the very people who need it the most. While there is recognition here of EOIR's concern with system security, the importance of system access to a large number of undocumented immigrants should trump that concern. We urge EOIR to step back and understand the large disadvantages of its proposed move which will not only result in the system only being accessible to those who have kept their documents, but will also serve to flood the EOIR with innumerable Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests which could have been avoided by access to the 1-800 number. Nowadays, a quick answer that the alien's "A" number is not in the system is sufficient to satisfy most undocumented immigrants that they have not been or are under proceedings. Conversely non-access to that information will open the floodgates because the only way that many undocumented immigrants and their representatives will be able to ascertain status will be to file FOIA requests, which take large expenditures of personnel and time to fulfill. As the government cannot charge for the vast majority of FOIA requests, the consequence of this ill-conceived proposal would be either an unnecessary dent in EOIR's operating budget or lengthy, unacceptable, and inexcusable backlogging of FOIA requests.

The author is a 30+ year practitioner of immigration law based in New York City. He was awarded the Sidney A. Levine prize for best legal writing at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1977 and has written extensively on immigration over the past years for the ethnic newspapers, World Journal, Sing Tao, Pakistan Calling, Muhasha and OCS. He has testified as an expert on immigration in civil court proceedings and was recognized by the Taiwan government in 1985 for his work protecting human rights. His article, "The Bush Temporary Worker Proposal and Comparative Pending Legislation: an Analysis" was Interpreter Releases' cover display article at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in 2004, and his victory in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case of first impression nationwide, Firstland International v. INS, successfully challenged INS' policy of over 40 years of revoking approved immigrant visa petitions under a nebulous standard of proof. Its value as precedent, however, was short-lived as it was specifically targeted by the Administration in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.

This article 2010 Alan Lee, Esq.


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