In today’s digital age, video teleconferencing (VTC) hearings have become increasingly common in immigration law proceedings. However, this has introduced a new challenge for an immigration lawyer and their clients—determining which circuit court’s law should apply when there are conflicting legal interpretations across different jurisdictions. In this blog post, we will explore the recent precedent decision in Matter of Garcia, 28 I&N Dec. 693 (BIA 2023), and its implications for choice of law in removal proceedings, particularly in relation to video teleconferencing hearings.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MATTER OF GARCIA
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), recently released a decision in Matter of Garcia, clarifying the governing circuit law for Immigration Judges and the BIA in removal proceedings. As explained in the decision, the controlling law is based on the federal circuit where venue in the removal proceedings is established, unless an Immigration Judge grants a change of venue to another immigration court. This decision prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) from unilaterally changing the governing circuit law once a case has commenced.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THOSE ARRESTED IN THE INTERIOR
While Matter of Garcia brings some clarity, it also raises concerns regarding the jurisdiction where the Notice to Appear (“charging document”) is filed. As DHS has the sole discretion to choose the filing location, noncitizens who are arrested in the interior may face a situation where their case is transferred to a different jurisdiction with potentially different circuit law interpretations. This can pose challenges for individuals who had initially established connections, such as access to family, an immigration lawyer, or pro bono services, in their home jurisdiction. As such, if the circumstances support such a request, it may be prudent for an immigration lawyer to file a motion to change venue to a more favorable jurisdiction. This becomes particularly important when the outcome of the case may be influenced by circuit-specific legal interpretations.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR PETITIONS FOR REVIEW
While Matter of Garcia binds Immigration Judges and the BIA to apply the law of a particular circuit in each case, it does not automatically determine the appropriate venue for a petition for review. The decision in Matter of Garcia acknowledges that the choice of venue for a petition for review rests solely within the jurisdiction of the circuit court. Therefore, it is essential for immigration attorneys to conduct independent research and analysis to identify the most suitable and advantageous circuit court for filing their clients’ petitions for review.
If you have a pending immigration court case, the recent decision in Matter of Garcia provides valuable insight into choice of law in removal proceedings. While some questions remain, it is important for attorneys to understand the benefits of this decision while being mindful of challenges related to hearing locations, physical locations of immigration judges, and the specific jurisdiction of the immigration court.
Lalama Immigration Law has the knowledge and experience to provide you with the guidance and support you need with your immigration case. Whether you are seeking a green card, citizenship, or another form of immigration status, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angel Lalama is an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles who established Lalama Immigration Law to serve the immigrant community throughout the United States and abroad with high-quality legal representation with a customer service-focused approach.