The Eighth Circuit Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association – St. Louis Chapter recently asked Attorney Amany Ragab Hacking to present on appellate practice in immigration cases on April 6, 2017 at the en banc courtroom at the United States Court of Appeals in the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse.
Amany joined a distinguished panel of 8 lawyers who each spoke about their specific practice areas, including criminal, civil, social security, bankruptcy, tax and habeas corpus.
Amany shared her insights on the differences between immigration appellate practice and the other practice areas.
Specifically, she discussed the concept of “consular non-reviewability” which is a bit unique in the large appellate context. It gives consular officers almost unfettered discretion in deciding whether to issue an individual a visa or to deny an individual a visa.
This can be incredibly frustrating for clients who have incurred a great deal of expense and waited months, in some cases years, only to have their case denied in the final stage of the immigration process. It is vital to vet cases well and prepare them as best as you can before this stage to minimize denials.
In addition, in immigration practice, unlike the other practice areas, the US Attorney General can write an opinion to supersede decisions already made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) – which is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws in the United States. This power is somewhat controversial and has limited procedural safeguards or protections to check it. That is why whom we elect as president can make such a profound impact on the immigration process in this country.
Amany also discussed how the REAL ID Act, passed in 2005, stripped federal courts of jurisdiction over immigration appeals. Unlike other practice areas, the federal courts have limited power in immigration cases. She emphasized how important it is to understand the particular appellate procedure for your immigration case, as not doing so will delay your case further.
Finally, she discussed the analysis that every lawyer should make when taking on immigration appeals – should you appeal or not appeal and just start over. Too often the appellate system may not be the best next step for your client for a number of reason – it will take longer to appeal something requires the administrative bureaucracy to admit they made a mistake than it will for you to start over and provide what is needed to prevail. It depends on the case, and requires good advice and reasoning.
In the end, Amany highlighted some tips and immigration sources for the other attorneys – including using the Freedom of Information Act as a tool to learn more about your client and their immigration history; being a good advocate for your client in everything you send to immigration, not just forms, but your letters, memos, and all writing; and to read up on immigration changes through the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association.