If you are an immigrant living in New Jersey considering representing yourself in immigration court, think again. Most immigrants don’t have the knowledge and the language capabilities to plead their cases before immigration judges successfully. Just look at the case of this man from Afghanistan.
U.S. immigration system is opaque and overwhelmed
An Afghani university professor identified simply as Mohammed thought the asylum case was a slam dunk. He crossed into the United States via the Mexico border in 2-22, seeking asylum. As a member of the Afghani Hazara ethnic minority, he was regularly persecuted by the Tailban and received death threats. In early 2023, Mohammed finally had a video hearing before an immigration judge. He felt his case was straightforward and didn’t require legal representation. However, speaking only in his native Farsi, he had trouble expressing himself during the three-hour hearing, with an interpreter translating his words into English. The judge denied his asylum request, leaving Mohammed feeling that justice was not served.
After reviewing the transcript, the organization Human Rights First Now indicated that Mohammed didn’t understand what was happening. Furthermore, he was ill-prepared to take on a legal system with a backlog of more than two million cases.
Securing asylum status
Although you may think you have a solid case for seeking political asylum in the United States, federal judges are often more interested in moving cases along because of the tremendous backlog. Even if you speak English fluently, you should consider working with people or organizations who understand the system.
Enlist the help of non-profit groups and others dedicated to immigrant cases to increase your chances of approval. Even if the courts initially deny your request, working with the right people can help you through appeals to get eventual permission to stay in the United States legally.