What is a writ of mandamus and how can it help expedite my immigration case. Hi. I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law around the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. Plenty of immigrants come to our office, call us, phone us, visit us on the web, and they’re complaining about delays at the immigration service or delays at the State Department in getting a visa approved and they’re really at their wits end. They don’t know what else to do.
These very good people have called the 1-800 number at USCIS, they’ve made infopass appointments, they’ve gone down to the immigration service to ask and complain, they’ve documented all of their efforts to try to get relief at immigration or with the State Department, they’ve called their senator, they’ve called the CIS Ombudsman, they’ve called the main office. They’ve gone up the chain of command and they just can’t get any relief. At this point, they’re completely frustrated. Some people wait for benefits like citizenship or green card or visa approval for years and years. The immigration service or the State Department basically tell people just to wait.
This brings in the writ of mandamus. It’s a very old phrase. It’s basically a legal mechanism that allows you to go into federal court and to ask a federal judge to make the immigration service, or the State Department, decide your case. Obviously the State Department and USCIS have discretion and whether or not to give somebody an immigration benefit. That means they can either approve or deny a case. That part’s clear. What the writ of mandamus does is it makes them actually decide the case. It’s not a guarantee that your case is going to be approved but what happens is that the federal judge looks at the case and asks why is it taking so long. If all the lawsuit seeks to do is to obtain action on behalf of the federal agency that has the case, then the court has jurisdiction to compel action on behalf those agencies.
It’s not a nice way of doing things. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do but in our experience it’s the only thing that gets the immigration service or the State Department to pay attention to a case. I’m sure if you’re watching this video, you’ve been experiencing delays yourself. You’ve heard a little bit about this writ of mandamus so we wanted to shoot this video to try and break it down for you.
Basically what we do is we draft a complaint and we file it federal court. After that, the government has 60 days to respond. In many of the cases, we get movement within those 60 days. Things start happening. Interviews get scheduled. Requests for evidence get sent so they can update their records and you can sort of find out what the problem is. In some instances, after the law suit it filed, you get called in for another interview or your first interview. Basically, the government has to respond within 60 days to that lawsuit. In most cases, they try to moot out the case and they do that by deciding the case. It costs extra money. It’s not fun. It’s not fair that you have to do this but in our experience, it’s the only thing that works.
We thought when we started filing these lawsuits that the immigration service would take it personally and would be upset that we sued. In fact, we found that really they sort of understand the process. They understand what’s going on and it really is that scrutiny from a federal judge that makes them work to decide the case. In some instances, the government does decide to fight and they do that sort of on a case by case basis but we can probably count on one hand the number of instances where they actually did go ahead and fight. In the vast majority of cases, they decide to work on the case and to reach a conclusion either right before the 60 days are up or shortly thereafter. They can ask for a continuance which we’re happy to provide if that means that they’re going to finally decide the case.
These lawsuits work in certain kinds of cases. They work in naturalization delays, green cards delays, and we’ve even had success suing the State Department over people’s spouse-base visas overseas. In our research, we’ve come across all kinds of cases where this has actually worked. A lot of it depends on which judge you get. Some judges are receptive to the plight of the aggrieved immigrant. Other judges bend over backwards to try to help the immigration service and to give them as much latitude in deciding the case as they can. There is certainly an element of luck to it. We no means guarantee that the case is going to be approved but we have filed lawsuits like this on behalf of 70 or 80 people so far and our clients have been very happy with the results.
I was a litigator before I practiced immigration law. I feel comfortable in the courtroom and drafting lawsuits and dragging the immigration service into court so we can bring into the light what’s been delayed, what’s been hassled about, and what we’ve been frustrated with is actually a really good way to use my legal skills and to help people at the same time. If you have experienced delays at the immigration service and you’re thinking about filing a writ of mandamus, if you have questions about how this works, about how the Administrative Procedures Act requires the government to decide things in a reasonable amount of time, these are the kinds of things that we talk about. These are the kinds of things that we put into the lawsuit. If you have questions about that, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200 or you can email us at [email protected].