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The real American court: immigration courts and the ecology of reform

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Immigration courts fail to live up to courtroom ideals. Around 2009, proposals were offered to address the problems of these troubled courts. My study illustrates the inevitable linkage between court

Immigration courts fail to live up to courtroom ideals. Around 2009, proposals were offered to address the problems of these troubled courts. My study illustrates the inevitable linkage between court reform proposals and conceptions of fairness and efficiency, and ultimately justice. I ask: (1) From the perspective of attorneys defending immigrants' rights, what are the obstacles to justice? How should they be addressed? And (2) How do proposals speak to these attorneys' concerns and proposed resolutions? The proposals reviewed generally favor restructuring the court. On the other hand, immigration (cause) lawyers remain unconvinced that current proposals to reform the courts' structure would be successful at addressing the pivotal issues of these courts: confounding laws and problematic personnel. They are particularly concerned about the legal needs and rights of immigrants and how reforms may affect their current and potential clients. With this in mind, they prefer incremental changes - such as extending pro bono programs - to the system. These findings suggest the importance of professional location in conceptualizing justice through law. They offer rich ground for theorizing about courts and politics, and justice in immigration adjudication.

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  • 2013