Bias and Other Mistakes Judges Make… and How They Can Play a Role in Your Deportation Defense

Anyone who has to go before a judge — whether you’re a criminal defendant, a party in a civil trial, or an immigrant appearing before a federal immigration judge — likely goes in with some degree of anxiety, but also with certain expectations, like the judge’s fairness. If you’re an immigrant appearing in a deportation case and the judge acts unfairly (or even in a way that raises the appearance of unfairness,) that lack of impartiality may be something you can use to your benefit if you get an unfavorable result in your deportation case. Immigrants who are the subject of removal actions have a lot on the line in these matters, making the services of a knowledgeable Maryland deportation defense lawyer essential.

One example of how this can play out is the removal case of Rodolfo, an immigrant from Nicaragua. He entered the U.S. in 2001 and obtained legal permanent resident status seven years later.

Over the years, the man racked up four criminal convictions, including three DUIs. The Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings in 2019. The man asked the government to cancel his removal.

Cancellation is distinct from dismissal but also has the effect of tossing out the removal action against you. Cancellation of removal is available if you meet specific standards, including:

  • having been a permanent resident for at least five years
  • continuously residing in the U.S. for at least seven years
  • never having been convicted of an aggravated felony

Rodolfo met these criteria, having been a permanent resident in the U.S. for 11 years, continuously residing here for 18 years, and having no aggravated felonies.

In arguing that he was a good candidate for cancellation, the immigrant asserted that he’d been gone from Nicaragua for 20 years, felt like a “stranger” in that country and that his proficiency in Nicaraguan Spanish (which differs from the dialect of Spanish speakers use in the United States) was only about 60%.

The immigration judge openly scoffed at this testimony, telling the immigrant that his assertion made “no sense,” was “so incredible it’s laughable,” and “sounds so stupid, honest to God.” Ultimately, the judge denied the man’s request for cancellation.

All Parties are Entitled to ‘Dignity, Respect, Courtesy’

The appeals court determined that the degree of bias the judge showed was sufficient to qualify the immigrant for a reversal of the denial. The courts are clear that immigration judges should treat the people before them with “dignity, respect, courtesy, and fairness.” When a judge — immigration judge or otherwise — engages in bullying or hostile behavior toward a respondent, it potentially triggers multiple problems. It may create a “chilling effect” in which the respondent feels discouraged or less than free to offer his full testimony and present his entire case. Additionally, it may create an appearance that the judge is not neutral, thus raising  concerns that the hearing was less than “full and fair.”

When these forms of hostility, bullying, disrespect, or apparent unfairness rise to such a level that they impair an immigrant’s due process rights, then a ruling against that respondent cannot stand and must be set aside.

With stakes this high, you need to protect yourself in every way possible. The knowledgeable Maryland deportation defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to help. We have extensive experience representing immigrants facing removal, so we know how to give you the best defense available. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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