Geography as Due Process in Immigration Court

Sat, 6/3: 12:45 PM - 2:30 PM
Paper Session 
Caribe Hilton 
Room: Beach Wing – Flamingo B 


Even when limited by the plenary power doctrine, noncitizen respondents in removal proceedings are entitled to due process before the immigration court. At its core, due process in immigration court requires fundamental fairness-the opportunity to be heard and to mount a defense to deportation. Implicit in this right is the ability to access the tribunal adjudicating one's claim. Yet the geographic distribution of immigration courts in the United States, which in some cases requires that noncitizens in removal proceedings travel 500 miles or more for hearings, often makes access to the immigration courts nearly impossible.

Using the procedural due process framework set forth by the Supreme Court in Mathews v. Eldridge, I argue that the current geographic distribution of immigration courts violates noncitizens' rights to procedural due process by inhibiting their ability to appear, present evidence, and secure counsel. In so doing, I highlight the detrimental effects that this geography has on remote communities, such as their ability to build pipelines towards access to counsel. Finally, I weigh and propose alternative solutions that balance the government's interests in efficiency and perceived legitimacy with the respondents' interests in having a meaningful opportunity to present a defense that could allow them to avoid the severe consequences of deportation. 


Valeria Gomez, University of Baltimore School of Law  - Contact Me
Email All Contacts