So often in the news recently we are hearing about an epidemic of bullying and its terrible consequences. Nobody likes a bully – especially when the victim is so vulnerable.
As immigration attorneys who focus their practice on representing people in removal proceedings before the Immigration Courts, we are committed to defending those in our society who are often most vulnerable. These are people who have placed down their roots in the United States, who have family here, who have had American born children and who are committed to raising them with American values. These are people much like our very own ancestors. In Immigration Court, they are facing the possibility of losing everything they have and being banished from this country. Very often, these people would be returning to a land that they no longer know, a country that is unsafe for them and particularly unsafe for their children.
As advocates preparing to represent our clients, all we ask for is a fair fight. We hope that the playing field will be level and that – – win or lose – – our clients will be given a full opportunity to litigate their case and be shown respect and courtesy from our adversary (the Department of Homeland Security) and, perhaps more importantly, the Court. We are happy to report that the vast majority of people representing the government and those wearing the black robes and deciding the fates of the lives of our clients hold themselves to the highest of professional standards and it is an honor to work with them.
However, we occasionally encounter an Immigration Judge who, to put it simply, is a bully. They bully the attorneys, they bully the clients. They appear to be predisposed against the attorney or the client or very often, both. They put on their robe and suddenly the scales of Lady Justice appear to be off-kilter.
As an attorney whose client has put their life and the lives of their family and possibly future generations of Americans in your hands, what do you do when faced with a bully? Well . . . the answer is that you cock back and punch the bully in the face – – metaphorically speaking, of course. We do this by our actions in the Courtroom. We stand up for our clients, we do not cower down. We object when the Judge engages in conduct which goes well beyond that of an impartial arbiter of fact. We do not simply go along to get along.
In the event we still lose, we take our fight to the Board of Immigration Appeals. There, armed with the written transcript of what occurred in the courtroom, we take the offensive. We call out each and every verbal slight, sarcastic remark, unsupported supposition, unfounded factual finding. We call on the Board to fully review the transcript and we do not ask for a remand, we demand one. Even then we often fail and take solace in the fact that we went down fighting.
However, every so often, when you fully commit yourself to the cause of your client, when you unrepentantly take a stand against a bully, you come out on top. Hence, it was with the greatest degree of satisfaction that we recently received a decision from the Board in the case of a very sweet and deserving client. Citing to large portions of the Brief which we wrote, the three-member panel of the Board noted that they were “troubled by the Immigration Judge’s remarks and conduct.” They particularly noted that “the Immigration Judge at times was partial, argumentative, hostile and badgered witnesses.” The Board was likewise “concerned with the Immigration Judge’s review of the respondent’s documentary evidence” (or lack of review). The Board took issue with the legal conclusions drawn by this Judge and, to cap it off, ordered “that this matter be heard by a different Immigration Judge on remand.”
While the professional satisfaction of achieving a fantastic result is tremendous, it pales in comparison to the personal satisfaction we get for standing up to a bully and for giving our most deserving and vulnerable client a second chance at her American dream.