Immigration Court Hearing

Yesterday was a day I will not forget.

After touching base with Judge Snow, who allowed me to visit his Immigration Courtroom in June, I went back to his Immigration Courtroom to hear a full hearing. Last time I went, I saw a few hours of preliminary hearings, and it was interesting, but I did not get to delve into any particular case because each was so quick.

This time, I got to see a full 212H hearing, which was an application to waive his previous conviction and to be able to stay in the US. The case was about a man from Peru who is a lawful permanent resident (LPR) in the United States, is married to a US citizen, and has two children here. He has been here for about 10 years, and he had pled guilty a few years ago to petty larceny. Hearing the story, it seemed like a simple misunderstanding, but his attorney at the time told him to plead guilty to avoid possible jailtime or the process of a hearing, so he did. His attorney at the time also did not tell him that with a conviction on his record as an LPR, he could not leave the country and come back in.  He was completely unaware and visited Peru to see his sick mother. When he came back into the US with his wife, he was detained by the Department of Homeland Security. He has been in the Farmville jail, where immigrants are largely housed, for 3-4 months waiting for this hearing. In order to be granted the 212H waiver, he had to prove that there would be extreme hardship to his family if he were to be deported. The respondent was interviewed by his attorney via videoconference from the jail. He spoke of just how hard it was to live in Peru, how little money he would make, the difficulties of obtaining healthcare there, and the fact that his wife and children have only ever lived in the US. One of his children was also born at 26 weeks, and there could be possible issues with his health as he continues to grow.

I was on the edge of my seat waiting to get to a result. This man has done as much as possible to help provide for his family, and it is evident that being detained that last 3-4 months has put a very big strain on his family. Judge Snow is a fantastic judge with a great deal of empathy. I couldn't help but think of politics and recent events, and the dangers of speaking about immigration in its totality rather than speaking about individuals. Hearing an individual case humanized the immigration process, seeing those who are affected by immigration proceedings and deportation. It is about far more than the person who may be deported; they almost always have a family here in the US. The man was encouraged by Judge Snow to not make any more mistakes and to be extremely careful. He has been a contributing member of society, and I was ecstatic to see Judge Snow grant the waiver. His 11-year-old and 2-year-old will continue to have their father in the same country, and he will most likely be released today to come back home.

I'm extremely grateful to have Judge Snow's hospitality when visiting his courtroom, with him taking the time to explain the case before and to take questions afterward. Regardless of if I ever work with immigration law, it is great to see proceedings because it is not something we usually get to see. I'm glad yesterday had a happy ending, as I know they do not always turn out that way. With a couple weeks left in my internship, I am thankful to have been able to see a full hearing.