The Immigration Court Observation Project (ICOP) is a law-student led initiative to attend immigration proceedings, document observations, and identify lapses in due process. Since 2006, hundreds of NYC-area law students have observed over a thousand hearings and published a report on the state of immigration courts in NYC, available at www.nlgnyc.org/pdf/broken_justice.pdf.
Our role is to document. We strive to accurately portray what we observe in immigration proceedings. In order to generate reliable data for the purposes of systemic reform, we refuse to vilify or idealize any of the parties.
Our approach is transparent. Observers have a legal right to see what happens in most immigration proceedings. We are clear, but not confrontational, about the reasons for our work and our right to observe.
Our focus is human impact. Several recently-published reports analyze the procedural shortcomings of the immigration court system. Our goal is complementary—to show how current procedure affects human lives. At the same time, we respect the privacy of respondents and do not publish identifying information without their permission.
By documenting the stories of individual respondents, we underscore the urgent need to reform the immigration court system in order to better protect respondents’ procedural rights, address problematic areas of immigration policy and enforcement, and inject fairness into the immigration consequences of criminal proceedings. We welcome collaboration with advocates committed to reforming the immigration court system.