There are a number of different ways in which you might need to have a federal court action in order to resolve your immigration matter.
Three Branches of Government
Many of us are probably familiar with the three branches of the federal government, as described in the Constitution. The three branches are the Legislative (Congress), Executive (President), and Judicial (federal courts).
If you have a case in Immigration Court, you might guess that the Immigration Court is part of the Judicial branch. After all, the judicial branch is about courts, right?
But actually, the Immigration Court system is entirely under the Executive Branch of the federal government. If you want to appeal a decision from the Immigration Court, the appeal goes to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), based in Falls Church, Virginia. The BIA, like the Immigration Courts, is part of the Executive Branch of the federal government.
Getting from the Executive Branch to the Judicial Branch
If you wish to appeal a decision of the BIA, the appeal is called a “petition for review,” and that petition is filed with a U.S. Court of Appeals for the district in which your Immigration Court hearing took place. For example, if your Immigration Court hearing was in the Immigration Court in Detroit, Michigan, then your petition for review of the BIA’s decision would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Sixth Circuit has jurisdiction over cases that arise in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Sixth Circuit, and all of the federal circuit courts of appeals, are in the Judicial Branch of the federal government.
So, as you can see, if your case is in Immigration Court, in order to get your case heard by judges in the Judicial Branch, you first need to go through two levels of process in the Executive Branch.
By the way, if you wish to appeal the decision of a U.S. circuit court of appeals, you may file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s quite difficult to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to hear a case. Our office was fortunate to be involved in the case of Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with our position and ruled in our favor, by a vote of 8-0.
Other Types of Federal Court Actions
In some situations, the procedural process is different. Perhaps you are being held in jail by U.S. immigration officials, and you believe that federal officials do not have the legal authority to keep you in jail. You may file a petition in a U.S. district court to seek to be released from jail. This type of petition is called a “writ of habeas corpus.” You file this petition in a federal district court, which is part of the Judicial Branch of the federal government.
Perhaps you have filed an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permanent residence, or for naturalization. And, perhaps USCIS is taking a really long time to make a decision about your case. You may file a petition in a U.S. district court (part of the Judicial Branch of the federal government) to ask the court to order USCIS to make a decision on your case. This type of petition is called a “writ of mandamus.” If the federal court agrees with you, then the court will order USCIS to make a decision. Please note that the federal court will not dictate what the decision of USCIS will be. The federal court would simply order USCIS to issue a decision. That decision could be an approval of your application, but it could also be a denial.
Obtain Good Legal Assistance
Whatever is happening with your own immigration matter, it’s probably the most important thing that is going on in your life at this time. It is crucially important that you find an immigration lawyer whom you trust and who has a thorough knowledge of the legal issues and the ability to represent you in a way that maximizes your chance of success.