I’ve mentioned before that the Attorney General of the United States and the Secretary of Homeland Security can issue written decisions that affect immigration law. Years ago, the Attorney General at the time, Mr. Eric Holder, issued a decision that will change a lot about immigration court practice.  Specifically, he made it much more difficult for Immigration Court Judges and others to look at police reports when someone before them has a criminal record.

Normally when a person is arrested by “Immigration and Customs Enforcement” (or “ICE”)—which as many of you already know is basically the immigration police force—ICE can give a person a bond, or if ICE does not approve a bond, that person can request a bond from an Immigration Judge.

It is important to note that Immigration Judges and ICE work for different parts of the government.  Immigration Judges work for the Attorney General, who works for the President of the United States, and ICE works for the Secretary of Homeland Security, who also works for the President.

When Immigration Court Judges decide whether or not to give a person a bond, they look at a person’s criminal record.  If the person has a long criminal record, it is much less likely that this person will receive a bond from an Immigration Judge.  An Immigration Court Judge makes every bond decision by looking at documents… some of the most important documents he or she looks at are “police reports.”

Any time anyone calls the police, a police officer that reports at the scene will write down exactly what happened, after the officer’s work is done.  It is important to recognize that a police report will be written down even if no one has been arrested, and even if no one is ever charged with a crime.  If you call the police because your neighbor is playing his or her music too loud, the police will probably write a short report.

Before, Immigration Judges often looked at police reports to determine what actually happened when a person was charged with a crime.  The problem is, police reports are written by the police.  Especially when police arrest someone, the report will be the arresting officer’s way of justifying or explaining why he or she made the arrest in the first place.  In other words, police reports are often very biased.  They are not facts reported or decided by a court.  They are the police’s version of events, and they are notoriously inaccurate.

When Mr. Eric Holder, previous Attorney General, changed the law so that it became impossible for Immigration Judges to look at police reports in many circumstances.  Now, Immigration Judges must focus on the actual charges on the record against the person before them, not on what the police had to say about those charges.  This is a great development, because now it will be easier for an immigrant to explain his or her side of the story.  I will discuss this issue further in the future.

Thanks for reading!